Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sarasota



Two weeks in and we hit my hometown at Sarasota News & Books. Of course, somehow half my family managed to be out of town for my reading. Still, we managed to have a standing room only crowd anyway, and Jim the fabulous bookseller (above) kept Mike and I plied with quality wine. But my mom was there, happy and laughing at the parts of the book that I read about her. It was a fun night, topped off with marvelous food at the Selva Grill next door.

But there’s one curious thing. I have to get this off my chest. My hometown paper, the one where I worked for four years and where I had the genesis of the idea for the very book that I was reading just down the street at the bookstore – didn’t really write a story about the book. Viking sent books to the books editor, to the features editor and I sent one to the publisher, Diane McFarlin. Now, it could be due to a reorganization in the features department. Could it be my reference of my editor as “despotic.” (He does still work there, but has mellowed considerably in the 18 years since I worked there as an obit clerk.) Anyway, as a story, I thought it was worthwhile. EDIT NOTE: A good friend sent me a link to show that the paper did run a heads up paragraph on my Sarasota event. (Edit added 11/1/07)
The whole notion of going to Le Cordon Bleu came about when I was writing obituaries at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. One day, I came across the shortest obituary that I’d ever seen. It said simply “Edith Smith,* 84, died Saturday at home. She was the wife of the late Harold Smith.” That was it. No survivors, no services, no directions for flowers or donations to give any clue of hobbies or interests. No profession. No personal accomplishments. What had this woman done with her life? I wondered. Did she ever wonder the same thing? At the same time, I’d tacked up an ad for Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to the wall of my cubicle. For some reason, I decided that I wanted my own obit to read, “She earned a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.”

I told that story at Sarasota News & Books, along with all the portions of the book that involve my mother, who looked resplendent in a pink matching set (to the left of my stepfather Eddie, in the photo above). Honestly, it was the most enjoyable and in some ways, the most difficult reading. I regularly read a section about when my father died. I choked up so much that I had to stop reading. I looked at my mom. She was smiling, but her eyes were bright with tears. She nodded, a you can do it, nod. I looked at Mike. He had the same look.

After that, I read a funny section, about mom beheading chickens on the family farm years ago. My mom laughed and looked around, her face bright with pride. What a great experience.

*Not the deceased woman's real name

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