So, you want to know how my reading of Amorous Woman went at The Booksmith in San Francisco last night? I’d have to say it went very well and I’m so glad I did it for all kinds of reasons. Although right before the event I confessed to my co-reader, Liza Dalby, that I wasn’t sure why I’d voluntarily signed up for such an ordeal. In fact, at that moment, I wasn’t sure why I’d even been born.
But the moment of panic quickly passed. After all, I’ve done readings before. I’ve even done readings where I describe sexual encounters in lingering, loving detail using many dirty words. And I’d recruited, not to say begged, my friends, my kids’ teachers, my former college professors, and talented writer colleagues in the area to come hear me speak. I owed them a good performance!
I’m happy to say, it worked out fine. The gracious Liza Dalby, the only American to train as a geisha—and it shows in both her elegance and her lovely prose—opened the evening by reading a passage from her Japanese-style memoir, East Wind Melts the Ice. I really do love this book, which is a combination of follow-the-brush essays and an almanac of the seasons, blending ancient Chinese seasonal concepts with Japanese versions of the same and a modern Berkeley translation as well. For those with an armchair traveler’s and/or gardener’s interest, you’ll be enchanted by all you learn. For those of you who know Japan, it is full of nostalgia, but also many enlightening tidbits about Japanese history and culture. The particular passage Liza read was a favorite of mine because it gives a glimpse into the more tangibly romantic aspects of her encounter with Japanese culture back in her Geisha days. Liza also taught us a Japanese term for female orgasm mimizu senbiki (a thousand worms). “The quaking and wriggling of a thousand worms twisting together. Exactly.”
Liza and I had planned it so she provided a provocative appetizer while I served up a hot and steaming main course. I then read the scene from my novel where Lydia’s wealthy lover, Kazu Kimura, treats her to a night at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo where a very special “gift”—in the form of a lovely Eurasian prostitute--awaits her. I had a good time reading it and my audience was wonderful. In every corner of the room was an engaged, smiling face to serve as an anchor for my gaze. The crowd was a modest but respectable fifteen or so but they were the best, and so cool to make time in their busy schedules for my reading. And the question-and-answer period afterwards was intelligent and lively, not a stumper in the bunch. Fortunately I had the help of Japan veterans Liza, Wendy Tokunaga (author of Midori by Moonlight) and my dissertation adviser, Susan Matisoff, to add valuable insights. As I said at the reading, we provided a very Japanese-style consensus by committee.
It was easy to do my best at The Booksmith under the utterly charming and consummately professional guidance of Thomas Gladysz, the events coordinator. After the discussion, Liza and I adjourned to a real, live author signing table with really nice pens! I also signed some extra stock, which is one of The Booksmith’s specialties. You can get signed copies of many newly-released books. They are so supportive of authors, even newbie eroticists like myself, and I urge everyone to shop there and of course buy lots of copies of signed books, especially mine! Okay, so I’m slipping into whiny, self-pitying artist mode here, but too often people on the business side of publishing don’t treat writers with respect. Thomas and The Booksmith were awesome and if you’re a writer or you love a good book, please reward them and their fellow independent booksellers with your business.
In the popular culture, a “successful writer” is one who makes lots of money. But I have to say that in my odyssey of book promotion I’ve found real wealth in the generosity of so many other wonderful writers, reviewers and booksellers. In that regard, Amorous Woman has made me very, very rich indeed.