Oh wow. What a day.
But let me start from the beginning.
First, Wally Lamb is my hands down favorite author. His book, I Know This Much is True, is ALWAYS in my list of favorite books at number one.
After Wally Lamb came out with his third novel, The Hour I First Believed, I thought to myself, “Self, Wally Lamb will probably go on a book tour. And you live in the San Francisco Bay Area! Surely he’ll come here!” Well, Wally Lamb doesn’t have a website, and his little space on HarperCollins doesn’t really tell you much about any appearances he’s making. Now that I look at it, his “On Tour Now” does show his upcoming appearances, but when I looked at it, it didn’t.
So then I thought that I should check out Book Passage, a book store about 45 minutes away that attracts way bigger authors than the one in my area, and guess who I found out was coming to Book Passage?! WALLY LAMB. I think I fell out of my seat. And to make it the most specialist, he was coming to Book Passage three days before my birthday. My 30th birthday. Is that not the most awesome birthday present ever?
So when Dave asked what I wanted for my birthday, I said I wanted one thing and one thing only. And I needed it to come early. I wanted Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed so I would have it for him to sign. Of course, Dave got me the book, and despite the mixed reviews, I couldn’t stop gazing at the book and stroking the book jacket.
I had three adults and one child with me to go to this event, and I figured since Wally Lamb’s MY favorite author, he must be OTHER people’s favorite author, so surely the place will be packed. So I hurried my friends along, sped along in the carpool lane and arrived at Book Passage at 6:15pm. Wally Lamb was scheduled to start speaking at 7:00pm. The weird thing was that the place wasn’t already packed. I would have stood in line for HOURS to hear him speak. Why wouldn’t other people?
He read an autobiographical essay entitled “Braided Cords”, which was excellent. He went from a young child to the present, infused the story with humor, and used various voices as he read the essay. I was entranced.
Then he read from his book, which was also excellent.
Then he talked a little about the process, and I’ll have you know that he hasn’t been taking a break for nine years…he’s been TRYING TO WRITE. Alas, even great writers like him have dry spells.
One thing he said that I think was very profound was:
(refering to finishing The Hour I First Believed) “Having affixed its last period to its final sentence, I now release it to my readers and invite them to find in it whatever they want or need to find. Still, I hope the book advances the notion that power must be used responsibly and mercifully, and thus we are all responsible for one another. These things I believe:
– That, as James BAldwin once put it, “People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes back to them, poisoned.”
– That wars, because of the terrible cost they exact, are never won.
– That love is stronger than hatred.
Pretty powerful stuff.
Did you know that one of the main characters (one of the twins, Thomas Birdsey) from I Know This Much is True went to school with Caelum Quirk, one of the main characters in The Hour I First Believed? Nice interweaving of stories, eh?
Then we had Q&A. I asked the last question, and he said, “Because you have a nice smile and laughed at all the right places, I’ll let you ask the last question.” *sigh* My idol noticed me! I asked him to talk about how his teaching writing to women inmates has affected the inmates. One of the things he said was that out of 25 women who’ve been in his class and served their sentence, there’s been only one recitivism. Normally, the recitivism rate is 70%.
Then I got to have him sign my book! I had him sign both The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much is True. He was very gracious and kind, despite my gushing. It was like meeting my favorite movie star, only better. It was the best gift I ever could have been given.
Someone took a picture of us together, which I was thrilled about, but, long story, I look lame. Ah well.
Could I look any lamer?
Yes, I was sitting in the front row. No, I don’t obsess much. Why do you ask?