A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bookstore

For years, I have employed a simple standard in the determination of my life’s failure. Lack of publication. This fact, or measure, was demonstrable. It rose like hard laughter from a wooden ventriloquist’s dummy. Unpublished. Unworthy. Undeniable.

Until, the opposite became undeniable. A book, a publication date, a fact. Dance without Steps. My book. An event that any experienced author will tell you is always a mixed blessing, as drawn out as birth, and extremely inconclusive.

What does it mean to get one’s first little…and it is that…book out at age 65? Well, there is the comforting fact that with mortality nipping at one’s heels, the whiff of the celebrity culture holds less sway. Or expressed more positively, one has more of a sense of what is important in life. And what is not. A good thing. Meaning, this is something to enjoy in its own terms.

There is a book publicist on this project, and she seemed to be the logical person to discuss a question that Jane has repeatedly posed. Party? When are we going to have a party?

It has taken me a while to understand that the question needs no more answer than something along the lines of a week from Thursday. Or Friday after next. But in my mind, any exuberance should be commercially focused. A reception. An official launch event. My book with hors d’oeuvres, influential people, and of course, friends of influential people. Oh, in its very description, the thing sounds tedious. Which is why Jane’s idea – we invite friends into my apartment – feels like a fine plan. A celebration of the simple fact of doing the post-Gutenberg thing. No illuminated manuscript. One illuminated cripple. Let’s party.

The problem is that when it comes to book promotion, there are so many things, tedious things, to do…many in the natural domain of younger people…that I never know where I am these days. The publicist has requested regular tweeting activity from me. At times I do remember to do this. Occasionally I forget about Twitter. But when I remember, there is no joy. What do I care about Twitter? Well, let’s not be snide, but honest. I issued a number of tweets, and the simple fact is that no one is following. For the sub-1% of the human population who, like me, barely grasp Twitter, the point of dispatching these 140-character missives is to get people to read them regularly, track them, track you, ‘follow you’ in the parlance.

Which is why I consider it supremely challenging to keep tweeting into empty space. For it has been a lifelong plague of mine, this belief that no one is listening. Worse, what follows is that no one is caring. No one is really there. I am not really here. And the existential crisis of infancy has remained intact for a good two thirds of a century.

This essential belief pervades everything I do with book promotion. The website, my website, once a simple vehicle for posts like this one…has become something heavier than a millstone. The thing, still in prototype, has been designed, redesigned, improved, refined, augmented and enhanced. And even more. Still, the process has revealed certain interesting things about myself. One is that I have a very poor visual imagination. I am a verbal guy. Another is that I can objectify, and thereby sort of market, myself. But only after repeated iterations, the passage of time, and so on. And in this, I seem to be like most people. It’s hard to be objective. And, yes, it’s hard to sing one’s praises. But a worthy challenge. Like writing your own annual evaluation at work.

It’s 3 AM, my eyes have popped wide awake, and what is coming into focus on my bedroom ceiling is too fuzzy to describe specifically, too insidious to avoid. When I sit up, dangle my legs over the edge of the bed and my body returns to itself, a dark scenario begins to piece itself together. Everything goes wrong on the way to my one and only bookstore appearance, which happens to be in Phoenix. I’ll be riding transit, of course, there being no other option for heavy electric wheelchairs. Surely, I will miss one bus or the other and be late and everyone would jeer when I finally make it…unless they have already headed home. The bookstore will be furious with me. Or, heading home in the Arizona darkness, I will get mugged at a bus stop.

The only antidote residing in one slim bit of reality. All sorts of friends, not to mention family, will be there that evening. Which is why I’m doing this in Phoenix. Susie, my sister lives there, and I have been visiting her and her husband and her friends for years. I don’t know the Phoenix buses. I will soon. It’s going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay, because I will not be alone. Still, that fear of being alone, or almost, in a suburban Phoenix bookstore…this does spur me on. I am reaching out,, and yes, mostly through cyberspace…which does require help. A local developer is helping me create some promotional e-mails…. Overkill? Does it really matter? The answer is simple. It matters to me. It’s not going to happen on its own. And in some ways, a little fear can’t hurt.

3 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bookstore

  1. Lookin’ good – nice and crispy.

    I’m in agreement – who cares about pithy enhanced bumper sticker 140 character “tweets”? Tell me a story, tell me a joke but I don’t have time to “follow” what everyone had for breakfast this morning.

  2. “Gring ist in bod pisshen” is Yiddish for “Easy is to pee in the bath” and suggests that everything else in life requires effort, commitment and imagination.
    Congratulations, Paul, on the publication of your book.
    Bruce Rosen
    Nelson, B.C.

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