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Thisbe Nissen: Tour Diary

Preliminaries - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 -
Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 -Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14 - Day 15 -
Day 16 - Day 17 - Day 18 - Day 19 - Day 20 - Day 21 - Day 22 -
Day 23 - Day 24 - Day 25 - Day 26 - Day 27 - Day 28 - Day 29 - Home Diary - July 25 - July 26

The sign at the entrance of Ruminator Books: "Klam, Nissen and Richler: Not a law firm, but three great authors!"

Day 12: Tuesday, June 12, Saint Paul, MN

I stay in my room and write this morning, some work on a story I've been plugging at for a little while, and it feels good, I guess, to work a little. I'm just feeling lousy and down, largely I think due to word of a mean Entertainment Weekly review which I haven't yet seen, and having had a day at home in my own real life and now being back out here again, in a big high-class hotel where the doormen see me coming in my shorts and Birkenstocks and don't even open the door for me and I want to say, "I didn't want to stay here anyway, I'd rather be at the youth hostel. Screw you." Instead I just go to my room and cry. I go for a swim in the hotel pool which is beautiful and nearly empty and I know that youth hostels don't have beautiful swimming pools, so there's my trade off, I guess. I think I might prefer the hostel anyway.

The guy at the desk is really nice though -- Gus -- and he gives me directions to the funkier part of town -- Uptown -- where I go to get some lunch and actually read the EW thing at a newsstand, and it is mean and makes me feel shittier, makes me wonder why people want to be so snide like that, wonder who benefits. And maybe the answer is no one: no one benefits, because maybe a lot of people don't care about benefiting anyone. And that just makes me feel worse, makes me wonder why I'm out here at all, makes me, as usual, question everything. I don't have the steam in me to go bookstore browsing, so instead I decide to follow my directions to the Ruminator Bookstore in St. Paul where Emma, Matt Klam and I will be reading tonight. I like to be able to take a practice run so I know where I'm going when I actually have to be there at a certain time. So I do that, and find it ok and then make my way back to the hotel again. Still no sign of Matt, but I've left notes for both him and Emma so I'm just hoping they'll be in the lobby at 5:45 to drive back to The Ruminator.

I call my mom from my room and she hears everything that's wrong in my voice right away, and is so good to me, talking me down once again out of my self-loathing, out of the desire to stop all this right now, to just give up and go raise some kids and plant a garden and maybe write something if I feel like it and if someone wants to publish it, maybe I say ok, and I take the check and put it in the kids' college fund and never look back, not even to see the book when they print it, I just go on living my life, and let the book go into the world and live its own without me. I feel the way I did as a teenager in New York, where I was part of so much hustle and competition and surrounded by such high-achievers, and I felt like I had to compete, like I had to try to be the best, to not let anyone down, to "realize my potential." And now I can see how necessary it was for me to get away from that, and I wonder if this whole publishing world is going to become like that for me: something I just can't take. But then I think about how much I love something like the small town readings or dropping in at Newtonville Books, and how much that meant, and I understand that I have to take the good with the bad, and that for every stop at a Newtonville where everyone is supportive and kind, there's going to be a nasty reviewer from Entertainment Weekly, and that's just what I have to deal with. But it seems so wrong to have to have someone I don't even know say such mean things to me, and I'm back to wondering why it has to be so mean. There are ways to say you don't care for someone's project without having to insult who they are and what they think about. Without having to treat them like they're stupid and have somehow offended you by writing the book they wrote. I've taught fiction writing classes; I've learned how to say things I feel about a story without bashing the author's head in and making them never want to write again. It almost seems like some reviews want to do just that: make you never want to write again. Is it a power thing? An I-can-crush-you, just-watch-me thing? And I don't really know how to make peace with that, the desire to be mean just to be mean, or to hurt somebody just because you can. It seems like there's plenty of hurting that happens in the world on its own, inadvertently, inevitably. Why add to it, maliciously, just because you can? I'm sorry to that poor reviewer from Entertainment Weekly who had to spend however many precious hours of her life reading my piece of shit book. I really apologize for wasting her time so egregiously. I'm so sorry to have not written the book she thought I should have written. And no, what I really want to say is: Fuck you, you smug little shit. You go write a book, asshole. You go write a book and put it out there in the world and have people walk up and sock you in the stomach because your metaphors weren't quite sophisticated enough for them. I'm sorry to have insulted you by writing the book I wrote and managing to get it published. Is that what you want? An apology? There. That's what I really want to say: fuck you, you arrogant little shit.

And now I'll just wait and see if the powers that be let all that fly in this online diary or if it gets edited out along the way because I'm not doing this to make enemies in the publishing world, am I? I've lost track of why I am doing this. Maybe it's that I'm a week and a half into this tour and I'm getting worn out. I'm getting tired of trying to make people like me. Because even this "diary" -- it's not a diary, it's not me going home to Chris at the end of the day and saying here's what happened to me out there. This is me writing the things I can, the good things that happen, the benign things, keeping it to myself when some interviewer says something that offends me or treats me in a way I don't like to be treated. Because what it feels like right now is that I'm out here so that people will find out about me and the book and LIKE me and the book and say nice things about it so that more people will buy it and read it and hopefully say nice things and tell their two friends and they'll tell two friends and so on and so on and so on... So I don't post it up here when someone asks me a really inappropriate question -- and I don't even really feel like I can tell someone when they've asked me an inappropriate question, because I'm in this weird position of needing them to like me, because they're in the weird position of being able to tell the world nice things or mean things about me and lord knows some people are going to say mean things, so anything I have any control over I want to try and make as good an impression as possible. And so you just hope for considerate, polite, thoughtful interviewers and reviewers. And sometimes they're wonderful; sometimes they're Dave Daley from the Hartford Courant. And sometimes they're just not even close.

Ok, I have an hour to make myself into a nice person again before our Ruminator reading, because I'm going to a small independent bookstore which is probably staffed by people who make no money and do what they do because they love books and it's those people who deserve all my gratitude in all of this, and it's those people who I actually care about making a good impression on. I think it's only the small independents and the good small town papers and reviewers who are going to get me through this, and I owe them a lot.

And Matt and Emma are more than wonderful and they make up for everything else that has happened today. We go do the reading and there's some people there -- including my friend Peter who I haven't seen in ten years or more, who I climbed Mt. Rainier with when I was 17! He's a 5th grade teacher in Minneapolis now! Amazing! That's what's wonderful about doing a book tour -- that you get to see people you never thought you'd see again. That's amazing. And everyone at The Ruminator is so nice and it's great to read with Matt and Emma who are both so funny and such performers, and I'm in such a good mood by the time we leave, which only gets better when we go back to the hotel sushi bar and Emma lets me order for both of us again. Matt and I drink hot saki, and our waitress, Julie, is the cutest thing in the world and for a while everything feels really really good again.

Matt and Emma at the Ruminator