Any tips for talking to you at your book signing for Wolf this Monday?

johndarnielle:

I’m not sure if this q is about how to not make me nervous or about being nervous oneself. Because people sometimes feel nervous when saying hi in the signing line, I’m assuming the latter. If it’s the former, then this answer will totally be ridiculous and too long, but at any rate thanks for thinking of me, I’m all right, I don’t like to shake hands or take pictures, people shake my hand and take my picture anyway and if that’s the worst thing that happens to me today then I’m blessed. (NB the book signing lines have been too intense and crowded for pictures so non-issue there.) 

Otherwise, here is a thing I want to say: I know and I get that meeting somebody who’s made a thing that is useful or moving is a little weird, because the time we spend with music or literature or dance or film is private, intimate: if I listen to a song, and I have a very strong emotional response to it, it’s like the song knowsme, sort of — the song was there was I was most vulnerable. In some cases, it saved my life, and that’s no exaggeration. What intimacy could be more profound?

But of course that’s illusory. The song has no feelings of its own, and the songwriter — say, Joni Mitchell — was not there with me while I was sitting in a dark room sobbing to “A Case of You,” feeling like it spoke directly to me, so desperately in love, needing words to understand what I felt. The songwriter is really exactly like the person who made a coat: without the coat, some days I’d be so cold I wouldn’t be able to even think about anything else! My debt to the coat is considerable! But I would not be nervous meeting the person who made the coat, no matter how long I’ve been using it or how vital it’s been to me. 

So, nobody should be nervous to say hi to me in a signing line. I am really not anybody special at all.* I know songs are different from coats, but the above analogy really holds. I hope I’m an ok person, but I also know that sometimes we talk about people we admire in these superlatives that start out funny (“Joni Mitchell is a PERFECT HUMAN BEING. She is GOD ALMIGHTY WALKING THIS EARTH.” I talk this way about JM all the time, btw) and then have the result of 1) repeatedly expressing an obvious untruth, which is the exact method for inculcating a belief and 2) making us nervous to meet people who’ve made things we like. But there’s nothing to be nervous about. I’m just the guy who made the thing. The thing itself can’t be met, or has already been met. 

*really honestly really. It would make me super happy, super happy like a Yoshi at the Super Happy Tree, if people would join me in this accurate perception of me being a person who makes things he hopes are useful to others. 

Currently trying to think about whether I’ve ever owned a coat that I loved so much that I’d geek out if I met the maker. Hmm.

Any tips for talking to you at your book signing for Wolf this Monday?

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