Saturday, February 5, 2011

Joseph McElroy Book Tour Review

Elliot Bay Book Store 2-2-11

The short Version: Over before it began.

Tonight I show up to hear Author Joe McElroy read from his new collection of Short Stories. "Night Soul and Other Stories"

He seems like a nice man, has a great web page and the crowd is decent for a mild winter evening and there are a large amount of children with parents. This could be good.

I overhear Mr. McElroy speaking to the Elliot Bay Book staff. He is pleasant and direct even greeting some of the crowd as they file in.

Over heard conversation with Elliot Bay’s book host Casey.

Mr. McElroy: “How long to I have on stage tonight? I am very conscientious of time limits when I am reading.”

Claudio thinking: (This is fantastic! An author aware of time.)

Casey: “As long as you like. The store is open until ten.”

Mr. McElroy: “Oh good. I think I will read this first story… then go on to this one…which is a bit longer. I should be reading about (inaudible comment)”

Casey: “Fifteen minutes?”

Mr. McElroy: “No I said ‘Fifty minutes’”

Claudio thinking: (Fifty? As in 5 and 0?)

I slap my note book and leave. If an author can’t entice me into buying a book in less than twenty minutes of reading, or intertwine discussion with more reading, I’m out. Author Readings are for the entertainment of the fans. They are an opportunity to promote the author, connect with public and most of all sell books.
Fifty minutes is longer than a good State of the Union Speech fast forwarded through the applause. It does no good to entice an audience to buy a book, when they have too much of it read to them.

Too bad.


  1. Claudio:

    I read with interest your remarks.

    As an author who is currently on tour, I believe if people are interested enough to come out to hear me read, they should get an evening of entertainment. I've been to too many 15-minute readings, so I give about 30 minutes, with some talk in between and questions after. For McElroy, I'd sit for an hour.

    If you think the purpose is primarily to sell books, then I can see that your view is quite legitimate, and quite applicable to certain authors. But if you've read McElroy, then you know his books like to connect humans to each other, and there he was doing that in front of you; not selling a product, but interacting with you and all other audience members. It's too bad you coulnd't have let the night play out just to see if McElroy's approach worked.

    Cordially yours,
    Jeff Bursey

  2. Dear Mr. Bursey,
    Thank you for the nice comments.

    I spoke to Casey this week and he said I blew it by not staying for Mr. McElroy, despite the long reading.

    Perhaps my immpatients got the best of me but I look for discussion as well as recital from an writer and the idea of listening to fifty minutes of straight reading is more than I am willing to sit through.

    I agree with you about the too short readings by authors who have little to say: often those don’t get reviewed. I don’t want to imply that an author should be reduced down to a second rate carnival huckster but it is a rather large part of author readings that are neglected.

    Yes the best part of author reading is the ability for the writer to not only connect with fans but create new readers. If not, then the book stores will go the way of records which is a horror in my opinion, for even a bad author reading is better than any reality television show.

    I’ve looked at your nice website and will follow your career. If you like please contact me if you are reading in Seattle so that I can spread the word to fill up the chairs.

    My best regards
    I Claudio

  3. Dear I Claudio

    It's my turn to say belated thanks for your comments, especially those in the last paragraph. My book, _Verbatim: A Novel_, is for sale at Island Books on Mercer Island, should you be interested in it.

    I can only imagine, from hearing McElroy on podcasts, that he welcomes questions, since on those occasions he did take some. So perhaps there would have been discussion. Hopefully he'll come through there again soon enough to read from his next book. I'd be interested in reading what you think of that.

    Cordially yours,
    Jeff Bursey