The idea of an author reading from his or her novel in public had always struck me as strange, bordering on the absurd. But that was the Younger Me, a broody post-adolescent clinging to the belief that an author was required to be a grouchy, reclusive genius who wore tweed coats with elbow patches and only listened to jazz.
So when I went to Francis Marion University last Thursday to hear Tom Franklin do a public reading, I was reminded just how thick Younger Me really was. Franklin, the award-winning author of Poachers, told riotously funny stories about his teenage years, provided thoughtful (and expansive) answers to all questions, and managed to make eye contact with the audience while reading from his 2010 mystery novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Best of all, he drew a possum on the book I bought (see picture below). If you get the chance, I strongly recommend you hear Franklin do a reading. In the meantime, pick up Poachers, a brilliant collection of short stories, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, a literary mystery novel set in rural Mississippi.
To review what I learned from Tom Franklin: one, an author need not be unpleasant and anti-social; in fact, he or she can be funny and friendly and still be a serious writer. Two: elbow patches, while cool, are not required to write a fantastic book; Franklin’s written several great books, and, at least on the occasion in question, his jacket was sans patches. Three: a writer can listen to something other than Coltrane or Davis; during the Q&A, Franklin mentioned that he saw Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg at the same concert venue in Oxford, Mississippi. Jealous I missed that one.