The local book store in my home town has canceled my reading. They’d received an email from a woman who said the book was about her. They got three phone calls from the woman’s friends. The owner admitted that not one of those who complained had read the book, but he just didn’t feel comfortable promoting it at this time.
Now questions will be asked. Now the book will be perceived as being about this woman, and I won’t have the chance to explain that it is a work of fiction based upon conversations with countless people over decades, woven together to create a novel hopefully rewarding to read.
So much for art. For meaningful discussion. For relevance.
I had just written another reader, “The book is fiction, a story constructed of bits and pieces, yes, some you will recognize… but it was constructed, and therefore a fiction, to build a theme that I hope is universal; that relative standards are no standards at all if driven by fear, irrational hope or selfishness… how we find morality within ourselves… that faith is required to leap the abyss… how losing everything can be redemption… how what we seek is connection.”
These are the topics I was prepared to discuss at the reading. And what it is like to create, why a story has parts and arc, what it is like publishing a novel, how hard it is to know something, and someone, whether objectivity is even possible, how all of us live in a world of our own creation. And why I chose an optical illusion for the central metaphor.
Now the discussion has become about something else, about something it was never about in the first place. Which, I suppose, is what it is about, in a way.