Pasanella & Son Vintners in the South Street Seaport is a stylish, architecturally splendid wine shop where fish mongers once hocked cod. A 1967 blue Ferrari, with its trunk open and filled with wine, is normally parked in the middle of the store, but was out on the town Friday night. My publisher, Hyperion, needed all the space in the wine shop for a classy party in which its fall-list authors like me could schmooze booksellers who had descended on the city for the annual BookExpo America, at the Javits Center. First, though, Hyperion brought all of us authors together for dinner—a gracious gesture given that writing is a solitary craft, and I at least don’t know that many other people who write books.
Now writers are like dogs—we’re all apparently one species but we come in shapes and sizes as diverse as dachshunds and great Danes. So there I was, seated at dinner between fellow scribes Duane “Dog” Chapman (You Can Run but You Can’t Hide) and Kansas novelist Laura Moriarty (The Rest of Her Life)—with Hyperion author Caroline Kennedy (A Family Christmas) joining the party once the booksellers arrived. The dinner gave me a rare chance, I thought, to discuss with these other wordsmiths the trade-offs involved in first-person versus third-person narration or even the outre second-person.
Laura Moriarty’s fiction addresses mother-daughter issues,
and my book, King’s Gambit, explores father-son dynamics, through the lens of chess, and so we realized that between the two of us we had the entire family unit covered. Laura wanted to know what I blogged about. “Not just chess,” I said, “but food, words, anything that I’m passionate about.”
“Words?” she said.
“Yeah, about phrases I hear, and their possible origins.”
She said that she had a very literal mind and could not help thinking, whenever she heard a colloquial expression, like the phrase “butt load,” of what the words themselves meant. I told her she should be prepared to cringe when she read my blog entry on the tough-guy expression “Don’t blow smoke up my ass.”
Now I’m off to the Javits Center to be humbled by the tens of thousands of different books sold each year—and wonder how on earth mine will ever catch the eyes of prospective readers.