Picture of Author Author Name

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

Day 9: Chicago, Iowa City

Ten hours of sleep!

Before I leave the B&B, I sit with Kitty the Cat on the porch, hold him in my arms and stroke his fur, nuzzle his head. He's an old cat, they don't even know how old, and he drools when you pet him. Some guests, the owner says, hold a napkin to his chin. I just let him drool.

The Toadstool reading in Peterborough is a great surprise. I already knew that my Aunt Kay, Uncle Bill and Cousin Julie would be there with Julie's two kids Dan and Elizabeth, who I'd never met before, and I was totally content to have it just be one of those members of the family and people who work at the bookstore readings, but then all sorts of folks showed up. Sarah Messer, who's been at the MacDowell Colony for the month (which just happens to be in Peterborough) shows up, and has two friends in tow, and Cate Marvin's mom too! (Shameless friend promotion right now, excuse me: both Sarah and Cate have books of poetry coming out soon, both of which I've been waiting for ever since I met these two amazing women a few years ago. Cate's will be out in July or August I think, and is called World's Tallest Disaster; Sarah's pub date is October for Bandit Letters. Everyone should go request that these two books be stocked and displayed up front at their local independent bookstores. Thank you.)

The reading goes really well, except for the fact that it dawns on me halfway through "Spitfire" that I'm about to have to read a sex scene and Julie's kids, aged 11 and 7(8?) are sitting right there. It was like the first time I read from Out of the Girls' Room... at Prairie Lights and forgot until it was too late that we were on the radio being broadcast live and I was about to curse rampantly. There was nowhere to go but forward. Julie, Dan and Elizabeth, I apologize. It's not ok to go have sex when you're 13 the way Miranda does. It's a lot better to wait until you're old enough to know what you're getting into.

So all that's left to do today -- god, the leisure! -- is have lunch with my family and then drive to Manchester to catch a flight home to Iowa. I'm early getting into Manchester, which is actually where Chris went to high school, so I call him at home to ask where his house or his school was, just to give myself some sights to see in this town, but he's not home, so I go to the airport and start reading my friend Justin Tussing's yet-unpublished-but-undoubtably-soon-to-be-snatched-up novel, The Low Home, which, now 50 pages in, I adore. It's 1973 and Alice, Thomas and Shiloh flee an Ohio town for the wilds of Vermont where they seems to be planning to homestead or somehow make their way. The descriptive voice and the dialogue are so incredibly good, and there promises to be much sex and hippie-dom, and I am dying for some more time to keep reading.

In the Chicago airport I run into Mark Poirier (my class at Iowa, author of the acclaimed story collection Naked Pueblo (which I loved), the novel Goats (which is on my must read, highly recommended by people whose taste I trust pile), and the forthcoming Unsung Heroes of American Industry) who is on his way to Iowa City to teach in the Summer Writing Festival. It's a little literary world after all.

Chris picks me up at the airport and we go to the Amana Colonies, an old German settlement near Iowa City, for dinner to a place where there's great cheeseburgers and live music. It's so good to be home. Fern and Maisie are waiting for us, all a-meow, when we come in. Home. Only here for a day. But still... home.