Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hilary Thayer Hamann's Book Tour Review

Hilary Thayer Hamann 6-12-10 Elliot Bay Books

Big Author reading night in Seattle. Jonathan Alter from Newsweek is reading to standing room only the Downtown Library while Jeffrey "The Bone Collector" Deaver is up at Third Place Books scaring the hell out of everyone, so where do I spend my evening? Listening to Chic Lit of course. Give the new gal a chance I say. Wow what an eye opener.

The spacious basement of the new Elliot Bay Books is quiet. I am one of eleven souls. No surprise. I only found out about Hilary Thayer Hamann’s reading from her debut novel “Anthology of an American Girl while surfing the web site Rat Reader.
I Google her.

The book has been getting nice press. Her personal story of getting her novel to print is compelling. She is one of the great self publishing stories in the modern era having self promoted her novel forcing the publishing world to notice her talent. Sounds good so far.

I read the first two chapters. It is a coming of age tale about a girl growing up in same time as the author her relationships, and explores the points in which she “shuts down” as the author later described in her talk. The writing is stream of conscious style with flowing poetic vocabulary deserving of the kudos she has gotten in the press. Her descriptions are rich and vivid and I am looking forward to this reading.

Ms. Hamann arrives and greets an obvious old friend with warmth that does not translate to the icy profile photo in the book jacket. Maybe the photographer needs fired I think. As she looks over the small crowd I overhear Ms. Hamann ask the lady from Elliot Bay Books, “Did you guys promote this event?”

OH SNAP! Did she just insult one of the best known book stores on the West Coast? The Elliot Bay employee was polite, said that they had promoted her appearance and apologized. Then Ms. Hamann suggested they wait ten minutes in hopes that three hundred people will walk in at the last minute.

On to her reading. Ms. Hamann is a decent presence but for someone who trained in theater she looked uncomfortable on stage. Granted she had just flown in to the city this afternoon but still show some heart.

Her novel is more of a tome going nearly six hundred pages for a first time author. Her reading selection continued the full elegant descriptions from the chapters I read, as she uses every word in the dictionary. She does write beautiful yet blind spots occur when an author falls in love with their own prose.

The question and answer session was revealing. She answered questions the way she writes, never missing the opportunity to use the plethora of polysyllabic words from her prodigious vocabulary as she transitioned into the tangents she required to express herself. So imagine my surprise when Ms. Hamann answered a question and used the word “retarded” in its political incorrect form.

Blind spot. Ms. Hamann made the comment that she didn’t understand why her novel didn’t translate over to more men. I asked her if she thought that the title had anything to do with being a barrier to attracting the wider male audience she desired. Her answer was defensive going on about how she loves men and that yes there is a pink cover of the book but there were “enough novels out there with fishnet stockings and stiletto’s on the cover and if they (the male reader) can’t get past that then I don’t think they will get the novel.”

At the end Ms. Hamann complimented the audience and the city of Seattle. by saying that she has only been here this afternoon but informed the audience that she was “surprised” by her first visit that Seattle had so much going on.

“You got Amazon and Starbucks and Microsoft and… and what else big is here?”

“Uh, Boeing?” says a man in front of me.

It was embarressing admission. Someone please tell her that the that there is life beyond the Hamptons and Manhattan.

Should have seen Jeffrey Deaver.

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