Some readers may be relieved to know that I am embarking on the final leg of my book tour. This Tuesday I'll spread the holiday cheer by speaking on music under totalitarianism at the Met Museum; on Friday I will give my audiovisual 20th-century lecture at the Cleveland Museum of Art; on Dec. 3 I will speak at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis; on Dec. 4 I will appear at An Die Musik in Baltimore, as part of the Evolution Contemporary Music Series; and, finally, on Dec. 5 I'll read at my favorite local bookstore, 192 Books.
From an early age I've felt more at home in bookstores than I do in most places. I couldn't put the feeling into words without perpetrating maudlin clichés, but it has something to do with the sense of thousands of stories and styles murmuring together in a limited space. The deepest pleasure of this sometimes perplexing book-publishing business has been to see my title taking up residence at stores where I've regularly lurked: Black Oak, Pegasus, Moe's, and Cody's in Berkeley; Dutton's and Book Soup in LA; Powell's in Portland; the Seminary Co-op in Chicago; and others. On this trip I also got to know Books and Books in Miami, Book People in Austin, and Book Passage in the Bay Area. It was a definite thrill to appear at Harvard Book Store, where, as a pretentious Harvard undergrad, I discovered the poetry of Wallace Stevens, bought the copy of Ulysses from which I extracted my incomprehensible senior thesis, and purchased volumes of Derrida that were more talked about than read. There it was somehow official: I'd become a book.
The crowd included such bløgósphërìc celebrities as Rodney Lister, Soho the Dog, and Bloviating Musically. That same day I visited the new digs of WGBH, with its handsome performance studio, and dropped by WHRB
to talk to the station's eminence grise, David Elliott, who got me
started writing music criticism. My debut, for the record, was a review of Hyperion's
disc of the Sixth and Seventh symphonies of Robert Simpson.
I then took the Quiet Car to DC, where I read at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Avenue. This beloved local store has a superb array of books and also an impeccably curated selection of classical CDs (pre-1900, twentieth century, contemporary). I grew up in DC; in the crowd were my parents, my brother, and several teachers from my high school and elementary school. (Ionarts was elsewhere, listening to actual music.) I'd like to mention that in the mid-1980s I worked for a couple of summers at a small bookstore called Simeon's, off Wisconsin Avenue. The proprietor was Frances Swift, a magnificent person who died in a car crash just as her business was prospering. Simeon's sales were not bolstered by several additions that I insisted on making to the inventory; I felt it absolutely necessary that we order a copy of Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil. Frances smilingly obliged. It sat on the shelves untouched. The word beyond speech....Previously: Diary 1, Diary 2, Diary 3