Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Secret Life of Books

Today is the official publication date of An American Tune.

I started to type an exclamation point at the end of the sentence, but hesitated because an exclamation point doesn’t really convey the unsettling mix of relief, accomplishment, hope, mortification, and dread that always accompanies the publication of a new book.

In fact, sending a novel out into the world feels a lot like sending your child off to kindergarten—or worse, junior high—knowing that nobody in the world will care about her as much as you do. Some will like her; some won’t. Some will befriend her, even take the time to help her find a path; some will be mean to her—just because they can.

And, for the most part, there’s little you can do about it.

Still, it is an amazing thing to hold the book you wrote in your hands—especially when it is as beautiful as the book IU Press made of mine.

It’s amazing to think of it making its way through the world, too—which is worthy of an exclamation point!

Your book on bookshelves and bedside tables of people you’ll never know, in ordinary and exotic places you’ll never visit.

Readers on airplanes and beaches and front porches, readers in cozy studies, busy cafes, and bleak hospital waiting rooms—every single one of them lost in the world you made with words. A reader handing your book to a friend, saying, “Read this. You’ll love it.” And that friend handing it to someone else and that friend…

Years from now, a battered copy discovered in a box of books in someone’s attic.

A book has a life of its own that has little to do with blurbs or reviews or sales figures, finding its secret way into the lives of readers who love, even need it.

Note to self: Remember that.

So off you go, book of my heart. Happy travels.

But pop up now and then, will you? Let me know you are.


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