Joshua Ferris Reading – The Unnamed
Joshua Ferris struck me as someone who isn’t used to drawing a crowd. I’d assumed he’d have the poise after he was named amongst The New Yorker’s Best Writers Under 40, or Best Young Writers, or whatever they’re calling it. I would’ve assumed he’d have collected a residue of schmaltz after his first novel collected all the attention and accolades. Instead, he was refreshing unguarded and genuine, seemed glad to be there, rosy cheeks and all, in front of a surprisingly smallish crowd of about 60 or so, with empty seats, with ill-prepared questions (sorry!) fired off by people who hadn’t read his new book yet (sorry, again!)
After a short round of questions, we lined up for the signing. I approached, thanked him, and explained my project. He laughed and asked if I was sure. I mentioned David Mitchell, and his drawing of a bird pooping, which cemented something in the Strand Representative’s mind, and she asked, “Wait — are you ‘Insult’ Bill?”
YES! Yes, I am!
We chatted for a moment. Earlier, I’d turned around to assess the line turnout, where two women lugged a pile of four first-edition copies of Then We Came to the End, and no copies of his new book. I narrowed my eyes. But first, would they be willing to sell me a copy? I left my first-edition of The End in Oregon, and I desperately wanted to get both of his books for Insulted by Authors. No dice. Neither would sell. They were for “friends.”
Right. Friends who don’t want Mr. Ferris to address the books to anyone. Fucking vultures.
So, I stepped aside to let the next person up and asked if he had a problem with the people who bring “dozens” of copies of his first book, but don’t want his new book. He paused a moment, seemed a little shaky on how to respond, and said something like, well — as long as the book’s getting out and getting read. I should’ve let it go at that point, but I was pissed about the two women with their fucking copies, so I pressed him, said something like, well yeah — but they’re just going up on the internet to sell them to random people to make money, not read them. He was on to the next person, so I just backed off and admitted defeat.
I think part of the problem is that authors are (for the most part) inherently very nice people, many of which can’t believe their luck. Especially the type, like Mr. Ferris, who take the time to trace the shape of a pen in the inscription before signing. You can tell that they really care, and appreciate the support, I think. I immediately felt bad for putting him on the spot — even without pointing them out I’m sure he knew who I was talking about, maybe saw the exchange I’d had with the women — making these two probably very nice women the face of The Horrible Prospector. Bad tactics, sir.
Anyway. I apologize to Mr. Ferris. It kills me that The Prospector doesn’t want a personalized book. I gotta work through why it bugs me so much.