There are two major bookstores in the world, City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and Shakespeare and Co. in Paris.
Last week I read and discussed my novel at City Lights Bookstore. It was a dream come true. I’m not sure how my literary career can move forward from such an honor. I could die today with bragging rights for my future in the eternal nothingness.
Let me back up…..
In 1994 I went to Paris. I was 24 years old. I brought all of my handwritten poetry and expected Shakespeare and Co. to be ecstatic and celebrate an unpublished poet from San Francisco. I had visions that I’d be ushered to an upstairs room and given bottled water while they read over my petit opus, my generous contribution to literature. Bottled water would switch to Absinthe and I’d get a buzz on the smells of the spirits of authors past that also graced Shakespeare and Co. with their greatness.
I had recently discovered Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Louis Ferdinand-Celine. I knew I was next on the list of these greats. My delusion was squashed when I asked about poetry readings and fumbled my papers onto the counter. I can’t exactly remember the reply of the clerk, but I remember my dreams crushed. Who are you?
Customers breathed down my neck as I picked up my papers from the counter and the few that fell to the floor.
It was 1994 and I went to Paris to stretch out my literary wings that were still soaked and unsuitable for flying even in my hometown of San Francisco. Why would Paris embrace me?
Because my last name is DuShane. I’m one of you.
I walked long hours alone in Paris, with my notepad, and a strict budget since the French Franc was strong against a weak US Dollar. I slept in a closet space of a friend of a friend in the suburb of Nanterre. It was understood as only a crash pad, during the day, I had to be out and about. With no one, going nowhere.
I tried to say hi to women, but I didn’t even get kissed. Four weeks in Paris and my lips touched no one.
…..End flashback interlude of my 20-something naivety.
Last week I fulfilled a dream. One of the greatest bookstores in the world actually hosted a night where I was the star. It only took 16 years from my Paris disappointment to spread my dry, literary wings in my hometown of San Francisco.
City Lights. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti.
I feel blessed and lucky. I worked hard on my novel. I wrote it in blood. While loosely based on my fucked up life growing up in a cult, I actually have to acknowledge that without that experience I couldn’t have created the characters or have written that book. My novel, endearing, funny and tragic, is a homage to the human condition. Of people standing by their belief systems and making decisions from hearts they feel are pure. Decisions that might damage themselves and others.
I was able to read at City Lights….to discuss these topics….to read and have the crowd laugh and have them in utter silence when I discussed tragedy. A woman asked me if the world would be a better place without religion. I don’t have the answer. I know some people need religion. I know some exploit religion. I know some people are truly good, whether religious or not. I’m not religious, but if I started a religion, I’d called it, Just Don’t Be A Dick.
Without flaws, our stories, our novels, would suck. Without conflict we can’t embrace our human condition. I used to think I was unique as someone who grew up a Jehovah’s Witness….while there are some things I’ve gone through that 99% of the world didn’t have to go through, I know my story isn’t so unique. Most of us are doing our best. Even the assholes. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have spewed hatred at me and personally attacked me for writing a novel that exposes situations they’d rather not have made public. One such Jehovah’s Witness tried to reason with me the only way he knew how, I know your book is true (regarding doctrine and situations), but why make it harder for us to preach?
Then I heard the same thing again. Why make it harder for us to preach?
They don’t even realize they want recruitment numbers over truth. When my book deal went through, I received vicious phone calls and emails from them. They’re human.
It hurt at the time. It still hurts a bit, but my peace is knowing they’re misguided. My peace is knowing that my novel is out there. They don’t have read it if they choose not to, but they can if they like.
……This is the part where Tony realizes he went from funny to grateful to serious to reflection.
….Wait, he doesn’t….
Where would American punk rock be without Reagan? Would Henry Rollins have turned into some type of Gallagher, smashing watermelons into a crowd because America actually decided not to be dicks for oil?
Let’s back up further. Would we have Louis Ferdinand-Celine if he wasn’t injured during World War I? Without Celine, could there be a Kerouac?
What? You would like to go back centuries? What if Cervantes never went to war, was never captured and had a posh life? Would we have Don Quixote?
I really don’t know any writer or humorist or comedian or artist that hasn’t suffered. I read them, I listen to them, and they speak to my soul.
I don’t have the answers. We suffer and we can sometimes laugh about it, at the absurdity of the human condition. At the flaws of ourselves.
Last week I read and discussed my novel at City Lights Bookstore. It was a dream come true.