Friday night was Chuck Palahniuk's visit. He didn't read so I hesitate to call it a reading - as he said, he being there for only 1 night, and the book being here for good, if the audience didn't mind he'd go straight to the Q&A session, since that was the most fun part anyway. I was struck by how he has changed over the last stretch of time - he mentioned that he had been on book tour pretty constantly since May, and it shows. He was much more confident speaking, and I think he's made a bit more of his peace with being a public figure, etc. Touring for Choke he talked a bit about making the movie of Fight Club and he sounded still a bit stunned by the whole Hollywood steamroller, hanging out with Brad Pitt sort of deal.
This time around he had the polish of a pro. Last time around, I wanted to take him out for coffee - this time around, I wouldn't have thought to ask. Which, while it sounds a little melancholy for me is probably a necessary survival mechanism for him - and I don't mean to make it sound like he was unfriendly - just guarded in the way you have to be when you have so many more people wanting what you have to give without being able or willing to give back much in return. Sometimes you have to choose who to expend your energy on, and the more you deal with the public (I find) the greater the chance that you're going to need to hold yourself somewhat in reserve, or else you'll be sucked dry by the sort of people who (as in a story he told) bitch about "why is he so special that I have to stand in line to get these signed" within earshot. Which I completely don't understand - surely you were there and bought the books and wanted to get them signed because you liked the author, right? People are strange.
An aside - I decided Friday that the newspapers could save everyone a lot of trouble if they just put "People are stupid and rude" as the headline for everything except maybe the Food/Lifestyle section. Okay, and maybe the Sports section, though sometimes it wanders off into stupidity as well. Certainly politics, international affairs, most business dealings, etc. fit the bill of late.
So back to Chuck P. One of the things I like about him is his knack for telling these horrible, awful things that happen to people without any hint of bitterness. Most of my dislike for other authors who write darker mainstream fiction, like Martin Amis, stems from the amount of rancor floating around in their work. I don't know if it's because I'm already bitter enough my own, that I prefer exclusively the taste of my own style of bitterness or what. But it really struck me when I was describing the reading to my mother that these horrible bone-crushingly depressing things happen to people (providence save me from being a character in one of his books, ai!) and they all pretty much cope and move on.
At one point he said that part of being there, telling the story meant you'd made it through the experience; you'd lived through it and been changed by it - otherwise you wouldn't be there telling it. To me, that's hopeful. Which for me is a nice change.