Here are the worst and best things I got out of the “Reading Room” section of this month’s Oprah magazine:
Worst: You know how when you’re a struggling writer and you finally get something published and then just as you do, somebody much better-known and with lots more publicity behind them releases a very similar book? Like when I released Esther: A Story of Courage and immediately evangelical bigwig Tommy Tenney came out with One Night With the King? Yeah, like that.
So, if you were about to release a novel called By the Rivers of Brooklyn with a small regional press, a novel that was about Newfoundland immigrants to Brooklyn in the 20s and 30s, wouldn’t you be JUST FREAKING THRILLED to find out that no less a literary heavyweight than Irish IMPAC-winner Colm Toibin is about to release, in the very same month, a novel called Brooklyn, about a young Irish immigrant to Brooklyn in the 1950s??? Isn’t that just AWESOME!!!!! Wow, his character even has an Italian boyfriend named Tony!! (One of my characters has an Italian boyfriend named Tony!!!!)
Now, this is unlikely to make a difference here in Newfoundland, where the book is being published and where the main marketing focus will be on my novel as a fictional re-creation of the experience of emigrant Newfoundlanders. But any attempt to market it to the rest of the world — perhaps even find an American publisher — is bound to be just a little tiny bit overshadowed by the simultaneous release of a similarly-named, similar-themed novel by COLM FREAKIN TOIBIN, wouldn’t you think?
So yeah. There’s that little pitfall to the world of books. Hard to be original, and timing is everything.
Best: To balance that, I thought of something really cool about books, also while reading the relevant pages in O.
Did you know that actor/comedian Amy Poehler really, really loves Anne Lamott’s books? This makes two things Amy Poehler and I have in common. We both love Anne Lamott, and we both love Will Arnett.
Of course, there’s a slight difference in our love for Will Arnett, because Amy is married to him, and gets to sleep with him anytime she wants. Not that I’m complaining, since I’m married to Jason and get to sleep with him whenever I want, and that’s cool too. I’m just pointing out that when it comes to falling in love with quirky, handsome actors, Amy Poehler and I are sort of worlds apart.
But when it comes to reading, Amy and I can both have the exact same relationship with Anne Lamott — we can both sit down, open a book by her, read and enjoy. Rich and famous or poor and obscure, it doesn’t matter — anyone can enjoy a book.
That’s the wonderful thing.