Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Akashic West Coast Book Tour: The REAL Story

By James Greer

I don’t know Mark Gluth (Glith? Glüth? Gloth? Rhymes with sloth? Got me), nor have I ever met him. He might be a really nice guy, for all I know, or he may be a serial killer. I’d say it’s an even bet either way. And I can’t read his inscrutable Calibri 11 point summary above (I have bad eyes), so I can’t really comment on its many inaccuracies. Although I did quickly scan the pictures to see if there were any of me. And there were! Thanks, Mork! Oh, wait... were you the guy with the really cool wife who can’t parallel park? Now I remember. Milk was the dude who kept going up to the podium after I was done and reading from some dead lady’s book. I’m like, “Can’t you write something of your own?” I think it was called The Late Work of Marge Simpson, which is doubly ridiculous, because Marge Simpson isn’t even dead. Get a TV, Murk. I must say, though, I was kind of stunned after security forced me to sit down and listen: Marge Simpson can write, people! I mean, her book was amazing. I admit I did not understand half of what I was hearing, because I’m stupid. But. Fantastic stuff, and not at all what I would expect coming from the brain of a cartoon.

This was in Los Angeles, at a place called Book Soup, which features nothing I could recognize as soup, and Moby. Dennis Cooper, the famous American smoker, was there, too. Man, the ego on that guy. ”I’m Dennis Fucking Cooper.” That’s practically all he said, ever. I thought I was through with rock star egos after Guided By Voices toured in Germany with Tocotronic, from Hamburg, who basically refused to speak English, or pretended they couldn’t, same thing. As you can imagine, the car ride to San Francisco was a real blast. “I’m Dennis Fucking Cooper. Where’s my gold-plated food?” “I’m Murk Goth. I stole Marge Simpson’s life work.” I put on my iPod, which I had found in the seat next to me at Book Soup, to drown out the chatter, only to find that the only music on it was Rush’s 2112, which I recently discovered has a lot of Ayn Rand references on it. She didn’t believe in God, so I hate her.

[Note to Akashic: please insert a picture of the banned Beatles cover with the chopped up baby parts here to illustrate my point. Thanks.]

Next stop: San Francisco. The Windy City. Home of the Blues.. Some guy with a clearly fake moustache calling himself “John Waters,” (like that’s a real name) would NOT stop talking to me. He asked if I owned two pairs of underwear, which is the only normal question I heard the entire book tour. We read at a place called City Lights, I guess named after that one Journey song, and I’d like to tell you how it went but “John Waters” slipped me a roofie and I blacked out until the next morning, when I woke up in the bathroom of a guy named Michael Karo, who was staring at me, which I found unnerving. Dennis Fucking Cooper bailed on us, mumbling something about being “allergic to Portland,” and I got violently carsick several times before we even left the city. By this time I was starting to really get into 2112. Who is John Galt, anyway? Seems like a decent kid.

[Note to Akashic: please insert a picture of John Galt here.]

So. Portland. Here’s what I remember about Portland: a lot of angry alcoholics and some kind of vegan tiramisu that tasted like twice-chewed cardboard. Other than that, we found ourselves in a mysterious city whose only residents seemed to be books. This is a picture of Portland that I took with my mind:

Exactly. Onwards to Seattle, which is situated near the Arctic Circle, as anyone with a third grade education (like me) knows. Oh, what times we had in Seattle! Not on this tour, but on previous visits. This time, no one would let me climb Mount Saint Helens, nor would they let me search the forests for Bigfoot, who is a personal friend and will likely take my failure to visit him as an insult and come to Los Angeles and eat me. Instead, we ended up in some weird cabaret space, like the one from the movie Cabaret except without Joel Grey (also a personal friend, and also inhumanly hungry, for obvious reasons). I had to read from my book, and then this Goth guy got up and stumbled over literally every word in not-his book in front of what I’m told was his entire family, who were much better looking than him so I’m not buying it.

[Note to Akashic: please insert a picture of some ridiculously good-looking people here to illustrate the difference between Merk and his so-called family.]

Afterwards we ended up in some kind of diner, or bar, or both, and as usual I ended up paying for everything because, well, everyone else left and I was stuck with the bill. Somehow I made it back to the Bates Motel, where I did not take a shower, because a) I’m not that stupid, and b) who takes showers?

Jeez Louise, who am I kidding? This was maybe the best book tour in the history of book tours, and if you missed it I feel really sorry for you in a fleeting way. Mark’s book The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis is much better than my book The Failure, although they are both worth paying any amount to purchase, and Dennis Cooper was a supernally gracious host and, as everyone knows, maybe the best living American writer. It was both an honor and a pleasure to spend time in his company. My thanks to Mark, his wife Erin, to everyone at Akashic who worked to make this happen. and of course to Dennis, and my apologies to anyone who I might have offended by my boorish book tour hijinks. I had every intention of behaving myself on our brief trip, but we all know the road to hell is paved with my behavior. I’ll be in the Midwest and the East Coast in May, sadly without Mark, Erin, or Dennis, but because video evidence of our City Lights appearance seems to be making the internet rounds, maybe you can watch that and when you come to my reading pretend it’s just as interesting. That, at any rate, is the hope.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mark's Side of It

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...)


Tour Blog

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.)