The Book Tour

After you’ve written it and it’s been published, you’re not going to make big changes anymore. You can’t stop the presses. They’ve already stopped. A second printing might happen, but it’s far away and really a long shot for a pointy headed book like yours. There are people who will be interested and they will find it. There won’t be a rush on the book stores like when Oprah recommends something. We used to joke in grad school when we had to admit that we hadn’t yet read the latest super-specialized title to come out on, say, Indo-European ablaut. We’d say, “I’m waiting for the movie.” Well, like those thick tomes, your rather thin one won’t ever be a movie, unless it’s something highly experimental (the movie, I mean).

All this means that when you’re giving a talk at this point in the process, it’s very different from when you were giving the many talks you gave while writing the book. Then you were putting things out there, trying them on like a suit off the rack. You might put it back. And you were also asking people to respond, to help, give you their thoughts on what it was you were doing, or what you thought you were doing, because sometimes it’s hard to know exactly until you’ve got an audience to try it on in front of. I absolutely loved that part. Oh, you think you know all sorts of things–oh, stop it with the second person, will you?–fine, I thought I knew all sorts of things, and I probably did know them because I’d been working hard on it and others hadn’t, not on that. But I knew I didn’t know everything, and there was always some idea, some source I might not have yet touched on or remembered or even heard of. I was ready to hear about it and revise my work to include it, well, up to a point. It’s not called confidence for nothing.

Now it’s a very different thing. I’m not asking anyone to help. If I’m interested in what they have to say, it’s more out of habit and maybe generosity than solidarity in the project. The project is done, unless I’ve got a part two all lined up, in which case more power to me. I don’t, so less power to me. It took me over a decade to write this book. I’m not thinking of any part two at this point, though I suppose an addendum here and there wouldn’t be out of the question, especially if Oprah demands it. In any case, all this makes the presentations I’ll be doing from now on about this project more performative than scholarly in the strong sense of that word. I’ll be doing a shtick, or rather having one, which is probably the idiom. I don’t think I’ve ever had a shtick before, so it will be something new and I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

You can catch me in St. Louis on November 7!