Hello, friends! Today, I’m visiting the Oshawa Public Library as part of its Suspects and Sleuths Mystery Festival. The other day I was thinking ahead, planning my presentation, wondering what the day would be like. That’s the lovely and exciting thing about public appearances: who will come? What will they ask? What bizarre and unpredictable events will pop up to enliven the day? It’s a cliché, but you never can tell.
That evening, I read Hilary Mantel’s short story, “How Shall I Know You?” The story was first published in 2000 but it’s reprinted in her new collection, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.
When I think of Mantel’s work, I think of it as cool, precise, ruthless, unnerving, and terrifyingly direct. I don’t often think of her as uproariously funny. But “How Shall I Know You?” is about author visits in all their surreal extremity, and I was shaking with laughter by the halfway mark. Then I hit this passage, about a good author experience:
“When I arrived at the library, an ambitious number of chairs – fifteen, at first count – were drawn up in a semi-circle. Most were filled: a quiet triumph, no? I did my act on auto-pilot, except that when it came to my influences I went a bit wild and invented a Portugese writer who I said knocked Pessoa into a cocked hat.”
And I laughed so hard I drooled on myself.
If you’re in Oshawa today, come see me! I’m presenting at 2 pm at
65 Bagot St., Oshawa, Ontario. I’ll try not to drool. EDITED: the location has changed! I’ll be presenting today at 2 pm (not 1 pm, as some schedules have it) at Village Union Public School, 240 Simcoe St South, Oshawa. I’ll still try not to drool.