Friday, February 6, 2015

The Author's Table

The Literary and Prologue Society of the Southwest, Tucson Chapter, met for lunch today at the Arizona Inn. Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator's Wife, was our speaker.  The room was filled to capacity with women of a certain age, dressed in our Sunday-Go-To-Meeting clothes.  In casual Tucson, the few men in the room were all wearing sport coats or ties.  Medallions of beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and five small desserts was more than any of us felt capable of eating, but somehow there were no crumbs on the plates as the waitress carried them away.

It's a book club on steroids, and no one is shy about asking questions.  A gentleman wondered about pieces of her story, and Ms Benjamin's response was clear and direct: "I'm sorry.  I liked it!"  Her broad smile took the edge off the testy message she was delivering, and I was reminded of Meg Wollitzer's encounter last month"I liked your mother's work more," was the phrase which rattled her; "I'll be sure to tell her," was the response. 

How easy it is to forget that the book being criticized is someone's much loved masterpiece, something they hug to their chests in adoration.  It was that image of reader and book which inspired Ms Benjamin to write that kind of book. 

She didn't grow up wanting to be an author; the stage was her passion. It showed in her delivery and presentation.  She moved us along with her, without notes or a drink of water. She had us laughing and wondering and sighing and groaning.  Her story was our story, that of making her way in the world on her own terms... or not... and struggling and failing and carrying on. 

I learned a lot about her as I ate.  As Scarlett suggested last month, this month I again sat at the Author's Table.  Three seats are reserved, for the author, the presenter, and the host.  The rest of them were vacant last month and again this month.  I took myself right there and sat down.

If I'm uncomfortable walking in alone, I'm going to make the best of it.  I galumphed in my grey and red cowboy boots to the front of the room and sat down.  I watched others file in, singly, in groups of two or three, and I watched as the four empty chairs at our table remained unfilled.  They sat empty throughout the afternoon.

I wonder why I never sat there before?  Of course, I shared the table with Billy Collins at the first of these I attended
but I was sitting at one of the reserved seats.
Then, it felt like I was supposed to sit there, and I was.  Now, I can choose to sit there, and I wonder why others don't, and why I didn't before.  Is it humility?  Is sitting there a sign of hubris on my part?  Is anyone else concerned about this issue at all?
Obviously, I am in need of more intellectual stimulation.  I am spending all together too much time examining the lint in my navel.


  1. i am just plain jealous that you got to sit with Billy Collins.

    1. Oh, Olga, he was on Prairie Home Companion today (Sunday) and I was transported back to that magical afternoon. He is as simple and as deep as his poems suggest.............


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