Critical Mass

This is Your Body on Book Tour


Are book tours really all they’re cracked up to be? The following dispatch comes to us from NBCC Jami Attenberg, who has been on the road touring for her new novel, The Kept Man.

As I write this I am sitting in SeaTac airport eating the crappiest breakfast sandwich imaginable (Shame on you Wendy’s. And shame on me for buying it), and all I can think is: I am slowly killing myself on my book tour.  I’m on my way to read at superstar bookstore Powell’s in Portland (I read at the gorgeous Elliott Bay Books last night) and between stock signings and travel and the readings, I’m not sure exactly when I’ll have time to fit in the next meal.  This is the perfect way to get sick. Or fat. Or both.

I wouldn’t trade this book tour for anything – I’ve met so many amazing people, been to some of the best bookstores in the country, and had the best opportunity to flog my new novel, The Kept Man – but holy moly, I’m falling apart.  Here’s what’s killing me: half-assed meals, no workouts, tired airport air, early morning flights, and, of course, the ill-advised glasses of chardonnay after a reading.

I did five solid days of flying and driving to signings and readings all across the country before I landed in Seattle, and had a day off. And that’s when my body gave out.  All the adrenaline that had kept me going for so long gave way to sickness.  I went through an entire batch of Airborne in a day, and tried to go to sleep early, though my jet lag/stress/usual neurotic energy (Oh my god, what if I was missing a Google Alert on my name?  Sleep is for the weak) woke me up at 6 AM every day.

I finally lost most of my voice yesterday. More than anything else, it is all the talking that wears you down.  I love it though. I love the performance aspect of readings, I love talking to the booksellers, and meeting all the nice people that come to the events.  But last night I calculated that between my arrival at the bookstore, the reading, the signing, the dinner after, I talked for four hours solid. I didn’t talk all day long in preparation for it, but that’s a long time to be talking, especially for someone who is used to communicating through fingertips all day long.  So by the time I was at the very noisy Moe Bar on Capitol Hill chatting up an old friend about the new music he’s writing, my voice had turned to this tiny crumbly noise.  This is how my voice ends: with a whimper.

I never get to see him, I thought. And he was so nice to come.  And he bought two books! How awesome.


“I have to go home,” I said.  “I just…have to.”

I like talking to the car service drivers too.  They all listen to NPR and love to read and they all have lived crazy lives that they are happy to tell you about, because we’ve got some time to kill.  But that’s going to stop too.  Today.  I am so not talking to the car service driver in Portland. Right after I find out what he’s reading right now.