by Marshall Walker Lee
I say appearance, rather than reading, because the reading portion of the evening (voice and text and presence and performance) seemed if not beside the point then certainly a second-tier attraction. People came to gawk or moon, they came to get their galleys signed or to soak up the air conditioning. They came for the Q & A. Oh, the Q & A! Those words still have the power to summon a pang of sympathetic terror in me, a sour feeling in my guts. As soon as the author closed her book I watched, as in the sudden swipe of frames thrown by a magic lantern, the quiet backroom of the bookstore changed into a shooting gallery. The author blinked and squawked, a lone duck. And me? I hunched over my little table readying the register, stacking and restacking books, fidgeting in order to avoid eye contact.