There’s apparently a book out there called Mortification, a compendium of stories about authors on tour. I’d like to add my own little anecdote, somewhere in the chapter by the title of “Mundane and Yet Exquisitely Unique Circles of Book-Tour Hell,” which I have to assume the book contains. The one that describes these remarkably specific cages you find yourself trapped in for what feels like All Eternity when you’re an author on tour? Yeah. Here’s one for those particular annals.
It begins with my unofficial Toronto “book launch,” by which I mean the pub night I threw for myself while I was in the city doing the media rounds promoting The Geography of Hope. Several of those in attendance are among my oldest and dearest drinking buddies – the sort of people who don’t even need to twist my rubber drinking arm so much as make a casual pantomime gesture across a crowded bar (the “drinkie-drinkie” gesture, as a lawyer once memorably called it on The Simpsons), and like that I’m out well past midnight on a school night.
…and then up far too early the next day for some morning interview… which turns out to be at CIUT, the University of Toronto campus radio station… which happens to be housed in a collapsing old Victorian pile… which happens moreover to contain a studio on its very top floor, a cramped little warren tucked under the eaves… which happens, returning to my point, to be the venue of my own brush with authorial hell on this tour…
What happens, to be specific, is that no one really properly greets us on arrival, and I’m so bleary-eyed that you could walk me out a second-storey window and I’d be picking gravel out of my chin before it occurred to me to ask where the hell we were going.
Anyway, so somehow I get ushered into this airless vault of a studio in the attic and seated in a folding chair off in a corner, and then I’m left alone in there until, presumably, the host sitting there begins our interview. Except he doesn’t even look up at me. He’s leaning in tight to the mike, an earnest undergrad in a hipster t-shirt, delivering a steady stream of words to the airwaves in a clipped monotone. For awhile I just sit there in a hungover haze, and then maybe five minutes in it occurs to me that he’s just reading a pile of news stories. Wire-service pieces about incidents of animal cruelty. One after another after another. In their entirety. Verbatim. He says “quote” and “unquote” to indicate the direct quotations, like it’s the ’30s or something.
Not long after the reality of my surroundings fully dawns on me, it occurs to me that, while I’m by no means in favour of cruelty of any kind, I’d kill this kid with my bare hands if there was a glass of water in it for me. And I’d torch the whole building for something carbonated. I’m just dazed enough that it occurs to me what a strange headline that would make in the next day’s Varsity: “Author of book about ‘hope’ butchers animal rights broadcaster live on air.” Like an Onion headline, if The Onion was a much darker satire than it is.
Fortunately, my handler pops in to drag me to the right studio in time.