Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stephen McCauley at Porter Square Books

Porter Square Books just keeps getting cooler and cooler. I attending a reading tonight by the author Stephen McCauley, who lives here in Cambridge, for his new book,

Buy me at!

Alternatives to Sex

We arrived about an hour early since we knew it was going to be crowded. And it was. At least half the people who showed up had to stand through his reading, which was well worth it. I bought my copy of the book before it got crowded (so I would have it ready for him to sign without having to stand in an ungodly line), and had started reading it before he arrived. It’s hilarious. He has a great style. Very witty, very funny, very rude. I kept bursting out laughing as I read, as more and more people showed up, as we waited for the author.

And his reading was phenomenal. One of the audience-members after the reading pleaded with him to do his own books on tape, since he has such a great delivery. (He prevaricated, saying he’s never been offered the opportunity, but I get the feeling it’s not his cup of tea.)

He actually read selections stitched together from the first several chapters, including several passages I had just read. I found it interesting that he had made subtle changes - changing an adjective here, adding a detail there - most of which seemed to improve the text, at least in the context of a live reading. During question-time I asked him why his text differed from the published copy - was this from an earlier draft, perhaps, or does he just improvise a little as he's reading and substitute things that he thinks will sound better "in the moment"? I'm not sure he got the question since his response focused on how this wasn't a straight reading from any single section of the book but was stitched together from several of the early chapters; my question was actually for those parts of the prose that I recognized (having only just read them a handful of minutes earlier), though. I actually got quite a few shocked looks from other audience-members at my use of the word "improvise". I didn't think it was an insult; I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into an author's creative process at work. He did provide the little tidbit that this particular reading was put together for PEN's "Eros Night", so he deliberately gathered up parts that focused on the sex for this reading. Very, very, funny parts about sex.

McCauley is of course the author of :

Object of My Affection

which was, as you must know, made into a movie: See this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database with Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, and Nigel Hawthorne, and one of my favourite actors, who we just don't get to see often enough, Tim Daly (aka Joe Hackett of Wings - they're finally releasing the DVD!).

McCauley said he’s going to be giving another reading this Saturday, April 1, at the Cambridge Borders store in the Galleria Mall. He’s well worth listening to.

And I got my copy signed!

My Signed Copy

I also picked up a copy of The Great Transformation, by Karen Armstrong, author of apparently hot off the presses. It appears to be her narrative of the Axial Age. But I'll definitely be reading Alternatives to Sex first.

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At Tue Mar 03, 03:02:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen needs to write more books, right NOW. I just love him, having discovered him only a couple of weeks ago. I would love audiobooks too; I have a dislexic friend who'd really enjoy his brand of humor. Maybe one day soon?


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