Truth Soup


@ingriddelao @neil_strauss and @gwydhar

I’d never been to Book Soup before: the destination bookstore on Sunset Strip. This has probably been for the best, considering my finances at the moment. I’d almost certainly spend every cent in my pocket on books and notebooks and greeting cards and clever tchotchkes. It would be difficult to justify to the Curmudgeonly Lion why these things were more important than rent.

But I was drawn there this week, on a Thursday night, by the announcement of a book signing with Neil Strauss, an author whom I’ve been following for a while now through “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell”, “The Dirt”, “The Game” and “Everybody Loves you When You’re Dead”.

And, most recently, on Twitter, which is where I saw the announcement in the first place. The event itself was free, but I went ahead and bought a copy of the book on promotion: “The Truth”. I haven’t been able to get it at the library. I know, I tried.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that a significant portion of my writing style is built off the wordcraft of Neil Strauss. I’ve always appreciated his slightly self-aware tone that manages to be both sympathetic and a little bit ironic towards his subjects. It is a useful skill for any writer, but especially so for someone who routinely writes about individuals who have built a persona around themselves: Marilyn Manson, the members of Motley Crue, pickup artists, etc. To a reader like me, these are personalities that bestride the earth like collossi (is that a word? It is now.) larger than life figures, legendary in reputation, famous and infamous… and, in the hands of a writer like Strauss, all this and also merely human.

Which is nice.

Also, anybody who casually uses a word like ‘dogsbody’ in a book about Motley Crue is ok by me.

At any rate, I bought my book and got into line to get it signed. I was once again faced with the task of approaching someone for whom I had a great admiration. I’d been trying to figure out what to say all damn week. I figured that I was going to have a whole thirty seconds to make an impression and I didn’t want to waste it on sycophancy (is that a word? It is now.) or worse, small talk.

Don’t be nervous. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be nervous.

I mean, this was the same writer who’d written “The Game”- a whole book on techniques for chatting people up. (It didn’t help me IRL and messed me up for years, but it made me a better writer.)

At any rate, the time came and I’d finally narrowed my mental script down to something like this:

Me: (big smile, hearty handshake) Hi, I’m Gwydhar. (Book on the table) What do you want me to write in your book?

NS: (confused) Um, it’s my book…?

Me: Well I’m writing a book of my own because your work has helped me find my writerly voice. So you’re coming to my book signing, right?

NS: When is this?

Me: Just as soon as I get published. (Look into camera, hold for laugh.)

None of this came out of my mouth.

Not “hi”.

Not “I’m Gwydhar.”

Not “Thanks for everything, you’re an inspiration.”

I didn’t even smile, damnit. Smiling is my default social response. I smile at err’y body. I used to smile when I was practicing stage combat. It got weird. In the photos I legitimately look sad.

So. Yes. That sucked.

I completely choked except for the final photo, which, naturally is the only one I’ll be sharing. Ever. See above.

I’m going to call this a Learning Experience.

I was offered one slight stroke of mercy after the fact- an assistant pulled me aside and said that if I sent an email I could get a free copy of the book sent to someone else that I thought would find it useful, and gave me an email address. All I actually heard of this exchange was: “Hummuna hummena hummena free book yummeta hummenata email address.” But my mind latched onto the word ’email address’ like a starving piranha.

Email I could DO.

And I did: I wrote up a run down of all the things I’d meant to say before getting tongue tied, while standing on the sidewalk out in front of the shop before I could forget the address and before I could remember to be mortified about being such a mushmouth.

So there was a faint ray of edification at the end. And I got a new, signed, book out of the deal and potentially an extra copy to give to a friend (although I’ll want to read it first to know who would get the most out of it.)

All in all, I’ll call it a Win.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 4, 2018.

2 Responses to “Truth Soup”

  1. […] First, a little context: I got the book at a book signing with the author, who is someone who’s work I’ve admired for a while now. I utterly failed to say anything meaningful to him when I had the opportunity. If you want the details of my abject mortification you can read all about it here. […]

  2. […] Back in May, I went to a book signing at Book Soup- an opportunity to meet Neil Strauss- an author that I admired. And while the event itself was lovely, my experience of it was a disaster: there I was with the opportunity to say something to a person whom I admired and I choked so hard I spent the next three days wishing I could walk to Canad and change my name to live out the rest of my days in Vancouver known only as La Idiote. (Instead, I wrote about it and posted it on the internet, so you can read all about it here.) […]

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