A fan in the corner of the packed Three Lives David Mitchell* reading last night said out loud what we were all thinking: "I don't know anyone who has read your work who isn't in love with you."
It's okay to talk about him openly here, guys and gals. Last night he admitted that he doesn't Google himself because he's heard it can make you go blind. (Cheeky.) But we know we all love David Mitchell. I've had a crush on the author ever since I pulled Ghostwritten off the shelves because its cover looked like a My Bloody Valentine album cover. As soon as I cracked the spine and saw that first line —
Who was blowing on the nape of my neck?
— it was all over. I've read everything ever since. My fellow bloggers are especially enamored: Jessica Stockton Bagnulo is a long-time fan, and Ed Champion even named his literary podcast, The Bat Segundo Show, after the shock jock in Ghostwritten.
I've never known an author with such a devoted, gooey-eyed following.
Back in 2004 when I went to see Mitchell read for the first time from Cloud Atlas at Three Lives (which Mitchell last night referred to as his "American living room," or "to use the acronym, u sofa"), I met a woman from England named Sam. We sat in the corner, just next to the stool where Mitchell would soon be perched, his forehead tapping against the lamp overhead as he cooed out Sloosha's dialect. Sam and I got to talking while we waited, and I soon discovered that she felt exactly the same way I did about Mr. Mitchell. The two of us giggled and blushed in the corner over how excited we were. She said "I've never been to a reading before. Not just anyone can get me out of bed."
It's hard to explain this to people who haven't read his fiction. What he writes is both charming and mystically complex. Each word seems to be more carefully chosen than the next. Seeing him read in person just heightens the reverence: his voice is soothing, but he sounds genuinely excited to be in your presence. He truly wants to connect to every single person in the crowd, and let them in on the beauty of what words sound like. And they are crowds. I can't remember another reading so packed.
Good book readings are intimate, funny, short but sweet. When you leave, you feel like you know the author better, and it adds something to the reading of their work. Sometimes there is alcohol involved. The best can even make it humorous. Sherman Alexie can do this. Gary Shteyngart can do this. David Mitchell, you bet, can do this.
There's little point to this post, really, other than to get you to join our club. David Mitchell writes good books, and gives good readings. He'll be reading tonight at 7pm from his latest, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, at Bookcourt in Brooklyn, and tomorrow night the fantastic Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene is throwing him a party.
Go. Read. Crush out with the rest of us. Just remember this: I saw him first.
*Not to be confused with the comedian, who is also British, and also lovely.
(Solipsistic, rambling addendum: Is it possible that in spite of not Googling himself, he's read this blog? At the end of last night's reading, all of us sweaty and numb-legged from being crushed into the tiny, perfect space together, Mitchell decided to wrap things up, saying it was so hot he must have "a Rorschach print" on his back. I'm on to you, Mitchell.)
© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.