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How much fun can a book reading be?

May 6, 2008

    Authors are often nervous about readings, and publishers aren’t crazy about them because sometimes they’re so ill-attended that an author feels a bit hung out to try — uh…, here I am standing up and earnestly reading from my book to just a handful of people; why didn’t I become an orthodontist instead?

      So it can be dicey to arrive at a bookstore in a new city (OK, LA is not a “new city” — I grew up there; but, still, New York is my whole-adult-life home) and think: Who’s gonna show? I must admit I had the pre-reading jitters when I arrived at Book Soup on Sunday, May 4.

        But the evening turned into, as one of the people who attended and participated put it, “more like a fun, wonderful intimate party than a reading.” People from the book and the world around the book showed up. Stephanie Fischbach! (Read the Carole in Laurel Canyon chapters to find out how important she is.) Cynthia Weil! (Read the Brill Building Carole chapters — or just listen to classic rock stations — to find out how important she is), and her (and Barry Mann’s) daughter, brilliant therapist and author, Dr. Jenn Berman. Arlyne Rothberg, Carly’s manager during her ascent and peak stardom (and also the manager at the time of Diane Keaton) came. Arlyne’s son, by the way, gifted photographer Max Gerber, has just published a beautiful and edifying book, MY HEART VS. THE REAL WORLD, and if it wasn’t a bad pun I’d call it quietly heartbreaking — as well as offhandedly valorous and uplifting: his own story, and those of ten other young people, about living with congenital heart disease. I want you to buy that book almost as much as I want you to buy GIRLS LIKE US. Fabulous fellow biographer-of-living-icons Suzanne Finstad (NATASHA, A PRIVATE MAN: WARREN BEATTY), who is now writing a delicious-sounding biography of Charles Dana Gibson and the first “it” girl The Gibson Girl, popped in. So did Harvey Kubernik, the author of two rock books who wrote the liner notes for the deluxe reissue of TAPESTRY, and so did my dear friend Ron Shipp, the brave hero of the O.J. Simpson trial. Most gratifying, there was Michelle Phillips, even standing (until someone brought her a chair). I’d profiled the legendary Mama of the Mamas and Papas (and, one can rightly argue, America’s first flower child) for the December VANITY FAIR…and Michelle stood up after the reading and announced to everyone she was making me autograph the article in front of everyone. When I took a long time scrawling a — long –suitable message (on the sweater of Michelle-in-1966’s lanky frame), she quipped, “The article was supposed to be two pages, but Sheila turned it into 17 pages. And now you can see why.”

          Here;s what’s great about doing a book reading with people in the audience Who Were There. Everyone laughs at the right places. It’s full of asides, knowing glances, quips — a little like call-and-response. And afterward, you can REALLY TALK. We talked about the ’60s, about how one generation of women — Carole’s, Joni’s, Carly’s: for a good part of the people assembled: OURS — really paved the way for the benefits that the next enjoys. We compared the generations (more on that in another blog, soon). I asked Cynthia and Michelle how they felt when they walk into a drugstore and they hear “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (Cynthia’s and Barry’s song for the Righetous Brothers still stands as one of the most-played song on the radio…ever) and “California Dreaming.” To my surprise, they said that it was like hearing any song.

     Well, those songs weren;t just any song…any more than “Up On The Roof” or “Chelsea Morning” or “Anticipation.”  Or “It’s Too Late” or “A Case of You” or “You’re So Vain.” I told the people at the reading that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to listen to that amazing music for the five years I was writing the book. I got spoiled! And by having such a warm assemblage of people — such a community of friends — at that reading (not least of whom, my wonderful sister, Liz Weller, who promised that if only a trickle of people showed up, she would go out on the sidewalk and grab strangers to come in…), I felt, happily, spoiled again.

    Next stop on book tour: Portland, Central Oregon, San Francisco, Berkeley. I will write from there. Now I’m gonna turn on TV and see who won the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. (Go, Obama! Change You Can Believe In!)

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3 comments

  1. […] Girls Like Us -The New Book by Sheila Weller! wrote an interesting post today on How much fun can a book reading be?Here’s a quick excerptSo did Harvey Kubernik, the author of two rock books who wrote the liner notes for the deluxe reissue of TAPESTRY, and so did my dear friend Ron Shipp, the brave h ero of the O. J. Simpson trial…. […]


  2. My very first album was given to me by my big sister Jan. It was Carol King’s Tapestry. When my first love broke up with me in high school, it was Joni’s Blue that I played every night while crying and blowing smoke out the window of my families suburban midwestern home. Now, more than 30 years later, that same big sister is going through a divorce and it is Carly Simon and me to the rescue – I sent her Carly’s new CD last week! You couldn’t have grouped together any 3 artists more perfect for representing our coming of age in the 60s and 70s better than these 3 artists. I look forward to your author lecture and signing in San Diego in November!


  3. and ps number two–have you heard joni’s new album? the title song is just gorgeous. i play it over and over, before feist and after bettye swann. and can you ever hear tapestry too many times? in fact i’m going to put it on right now.



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