Last month I saw Heidi Julavits and Leslie Jamison at Word in Greenpoint, and before I get to my fawning I must say – what a perfect little bookstore! I have never seen so many quality notebooks alongside such a well curated selection of books about and by women (surely there were books by men too, but I didn't notice.) And snuggled so well into an economical space, as one must do in Brooklyn, Manhattan, anywhere in this radius.
Of course I had to buy five books before the event started. Bluets because I hadn't read it yet and there it was, and as one would suspect the bookstore lady commented on it. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, about the relationship between cities and art and solitude. All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister – anyone sensing the grand themes of my life at play? Dark Money by Jane Mayer, because one must learn and be in fear occasionally during the fun of reading. And I had to buy a paperback copy of The Folded Clock, even though I had the hardcover literally in my bag, because it came with a free notebook with the same design as the book jacket that says 'Today I...' See? Notebooks and great books by ladies.
While waiting for the reading slash discussion to start, I eavesdropped on the humans around me, all of whom seemed to know each other. This used to bother me when I went to readings in NYC, but now I don't really care. I may not know humans at every reading I go to, but I know some humans, and I even know some humans at readings. (Rare, but happens.) The knowledge that I have humans to drink wine with and meet for events and people that I'm working to befriend makes me not feel inescapably lonely in rooms where I know no one, and then I get to overhear great tidbits like -
Some humans gossiping that their friend just got into Iowa and went out for a drink with Heidi before the reading, whatever, jealous, and of course a dude. Typical, dudes getting into Iowa.
It is also somehow comforting that there is this language that I am well versed in even if I don't know the people talking. Like oh, I can probably figure out what event you're talking about at the Strand, and writing grad schools, and I can probably guess how you all know each other. It's a very interesting situation to be in – not like college where if you turned around you'd see someone who one of your friends is in a secret war with, and not like California where the only language everyone has in common is the sun. Somewhere in the middle, like a big old pasture where you all see the same trees.
And then Heidi and Leslie came out, and of course Heidi is so fucking fashionable! Wearing this crazy bold patterned wrap dress with every color you didn't know you wanted to pair together. Incredible. And then they started talking, and even her voice is majestic.
Apparently they went to lunch to talk about what they were going to discuss at the reading, and had such a good time that they just decided to repeat the conversation – or, in Heidi's words:
“So we are going to have lunch again, in front of all of you, and talk.”
Doesn't that sound fun?
She started with a passage from The Folded Clock, and stopped mid reading to laugh at herself, because she is the coolest. It was really adorable watching the two of them interact, because you could tell that they're actually becoming friends. They talked about this a lot, how hard it is to make friends in adulthood, and how time consuming. The way Heidi described it -
“It's like the economics of intimacy...” she paused, “And that is the title of my new novel.” and we all laughed and laughed.
Then she talked about how she was a waitress until she was 30, and I cried and cried, but out of happiness more than sadness. I knew this already, because I am a creep, but it never gets old to hear about writers waiting tables. (Though, as of now, I do not wait tables. I do nothing. For the next, you know, two weeks until I get paranoid and start schlepping my resume again.) Anyway, Heidi's most brilliant quote on it of the night:
“When I first started serving in New York, I was the twenty five year old matron among nineteen year olds in a nightclub, and then I moved to upscale, and I was surrounded by forty five year old alcoholics. That will make you write. That made me write.”
This spurned a discussion between her and Leslie about writing while having a day job, and Leslie said:
“You have to go to such extensive lengths to make yourself do the only thing you want to do,” discussing how hard it can be to make yourself write when you aren't at work. Sigh. So true. But also so great to know that it is not just me, and that it is also talented published teaching writer ladies. Hope springs eternal!