So I kicked off my local author tour for The Poacher's Son on Friday evening in my old stomping grounds of Portland. Longfellow Books, on Monument Square, was gracious enough to host my first reading, and I was greeted by a lot of familiar faces. Years ago, Longfellow was part of the Bookland chain of stores, so it gave me a rush of nostalgia to be standing there as an author.
When I was kid, my mother used to drop me at the South Portland Bookland while she did her grocery shopping. I spent hours sitting in corners (the clerks were obliging), reading comic books and science fiction and fantasy novels. I still own the battered paperback copy of The Silmarillion that I purchased there.
On Saturday morning I signed copies of The Poacher's Son at another former Bookland store, Nonesuch Books in South Portland. I saw many kids entering the shop, dragging their parents behind them. But they weren't there for books; they were all asking for Silly Bandz. Not being the father of a small child, I had no idea what Silly Bandz were so I asked one of the clerks, and she told me that they were brightly colored, animal-shaped rubber bands that kids wear around their wrists. Nonesuch was sold out of these novelties, so the clerks were directing the parents to the hardware store around the corner. It made me sad that the kids didn't even consider lingering to browse some books.
On a brighter note, I was talking with a coworker this afternoon, and he told me that the teenaged son of his girlfriend had flown through my novel in record time. The sex and violence must have sustained him. And who knows? Maybe The Poacher's Son will inspire this boy to write his own book some day. I mean, pessimists have been predicting the death of the novel since Don Quixote first tilted at windmills.
If you're going to spend your life writing made-up stories, it helps to have a childlike faith. Silly Bandz will break and fade from memory, but I have to believe that novels — on paper, on screens, maybe on holograms — will endure. Then again, I've always had an active imagination.