Friday, December 21, 2007

Jean in The Big Apple

Friday, December 21, 2007

I can't let this year slide away without giving an account of my magical four days in The Big Apple. On Tuesday night, December 11, I gave a reading from my memoir, I Hear Voices, at the Borders bookstore on Park Ave. and 57th Street. For those of you who may not know New York, that's considered a pretty swanky part of town, right next to Bloomingdale's in the heart of the toney upper eastside. It's also a part of the city that holds special resonance for me since my Uncle Dominick's office used to be just off 58th St., and my great-grandfather actually helped build the German section of the city known as Yorktown. What a thrill - to find my book displayed in the window facing 57th St.!

Anyway, in spite of all my apprehensions and actual nightmares that nobody would show up, over 100 people were there! - quadruple the crowd that the store usually draws. Borders had to keep adding more and more chairs and finally put a second sound system in the back of the room so that everybody could hear.

Much like the launch of the book back in October at our own Borders on University Ave. in Madison, I felt once again, looking out at the crowd and recognizing so many people from so many different decades and sectors of my life, that I had died and gone to heaven. Stomping around in my new boots and embroidered black velveteen coat that my husband says makes me look like one of the founding fathers (not exactly the look I was striving for!), I read for over an hour and had to be cut off by the management when the Q@A went on a little too long.

I spotted old friends in the crowd: Mariana, my Cuban roommate from college in the crowd; Mara, my best friend from fifth grade, and new friends too, like Annie Lanzillotto. Jacki Lyden was there, all the way in the back, looking exceedingly glamorous in a sweater with a full yoke of white fur; Diane Ackerman came too, all the way from Ithaca. My friend Melanie's father was among the first to arrive, displaying his birth certificate to prove that he really is 96 years old; my son Giancarlo sent four of his friends; my husband made sure there were a few scientists in the crowd, and Dominick, my son, the artist, looking lushly Byronic in a black velvet jacket, leaned back in his chair in the front row, his eyes closed, drinking in my words. I tell you, it was the thrill of a lifetime. And we sold a lot of books too.

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