Mark Gluth and James Greer recently went out on tour for their new books, The Late Work of Magaret Kroftis, and The Failure.
Here is Mark's version of it (we will be hearing from James next week...)
By Mark Gluth
Los Angeles: One of the great things about the interwebs is the ease with which long distance communication occurs. Over the past year(s) I’ve worked with and befriended a ton of folks, most of whom I’ve not actually met. The reason I bring this up is that while I had a pretty regular pen pal relationship going with James Greer (it started once we found out we’d be reading together) I had no idea what he was actually like. So when I saw somebody (who kinda maybe in a weird way looked like what I thought I remember he looked like even though I realized I’d never seen a picture of him) taking a picture of Book Soup’s marquee :
I assumed it was him. Luckily I was right. While tons of us have gone through the experience of befriending someone online and then meeting them, it’s still a weird way to meet someone: You get to know them first, read their novels, text them and then get to actually meet them and then share a car for a week of book touring up the west coast. After a couple seconds of chatting with Jim and my wife/ tour manager goddess Erin Kelly, Dennis Cooper ( amazing novelist/editor who brought James’s book Artificial light, and my book The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis to Akashic), his nephew Cody, and artist/designer Joel Westendorf came up and we became a huddled, ever enlarging smoky mass. Friends and fans joined up and the chatting continued until we made it inside. Dennis read first, and it was an amazing one off re-enactment of his early 90’s Interview Magazine interview with Keanu Reeves. Dennis read ‘Dennis’ and Cody read’ Keanu’. It was hilarious, brilliant, and ultra compelling. Then Jim read a chapter from the final 3rd of The Failure. It was a book I’d just finished a week prior and it was revelatory to hear him read in person. He glided through a section composed entirely of dialogue, adding context when necessary and had a large percentage of the room in hysterics by the end.
San Francisco: We made excellent, largely traffic free, time to San Francisco and checked into our downtown hotel with time to spare before the reading. As our cab pulled up to the store Dennis spied John Waters outside. Apparently he was actually there for the reading too. He was an ultra gracious gent, bought The Failure and The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis, and actually asked us to sign them. Anyway City Lights was a wonderful store. It’s an honor to read at such a storied bookstore, but on top of that they have a wonderful room upstairs set aside for readings. The room was full with folks standing and the readings went great. Dennis read 4 or so brief selections from Ugly Man and James and I repeated our previous readings.
Après reading we went to a wonderful dinner hosted by Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy and Bill Hsu. A good time was had by all, perhaps a little too good (James upon sipping my negroni ‘that’s got a kick’)….
The road to Portland: Erin and I were working on about 5 hours of sleep, James even less, when we hit the road at 8 am to Portland, Kombuchas in hand (James upon sipping mine ‘that’s got a kick!’). Once past Oakland we stopped for more substantive consumables at a Starbucks, then for fries at an In and Out Burger north of Stockton (a first for Vegan Erin and I). Not much can be said about the drive form San Fran to Portland except that it’s long. We chatted the entire time, except for stops for gas and, just short of the Oregon border, at a business called ‘The Liquor Barn’. We rolled in the hotel parking lot in the dark, exhausted but invigorated by the chill PNW air of Portland.
Day 6, Portland: Erin and I headed out and saw the sights, or as many as we could shoehorn into a couple hours, before picking up James, meeting up with a friend for dinner and getting lost on our way to Powell’s.
Luckily local writer and journalist Chris Stamm provided some excellent over the phone directions. We made it in front door with time to spare but, and you have to be there to appreciate it, Powell’s is so huge that it took us another 5 minutes and several flights of stairs to make it through the small portion of the store we had to in order to get to the rare books room, where readings are held. Powell’s is such a positive, writer friendly atmosphere that even the podium is constructed out of books.
Seattle: it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to Seattle, and the last date of our conjoined reading tour. We had the pleasure of reading at the Richard Hugo house, and of being hosted/introduced by great local writer Matthew Simmons . The whole previous week, if not Jim’s entire life was just a build up to the reading he gave. People bought multiple copies of his book. When’s the last time you bought 2 copies of a book because the reading was so good? It was home turf for me, so I was a tad bit more nervous than usual, but I think overall it went well, and the cabaret room, where we read, was full as well. Also the cabaret room had an excellent selection of Belgian beer. I had 2 of something called Piraat.
We ended the night at a place called Charlie’s which, if you’ve read The Failure, is a great coincidence.
Anyway it was great meeting so many fans, friends from Facebook, and literary idols. It was also great to hang with Dennis and Jim. Jim is a great writer and The Failure is a great book. You should read it and, when you’re done, friend him on Facebook (but watch out for that Sven guy.)