Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blake Nelson was here

On Saturday night my super-talented friend Yony Leyser (he made the documentary, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within) invited me to read a little of one of my books at the Sister Spit show at The Echo in Echo Park. First off, let me just say how awesome the show is - check out the link and you'll see all the amazing writers/performers who are in a van as we speak coming to your town to break some words down for ya - it's like Grrl Power and Smarts (maybe Smarties, too) and Cool Dudes and Just Fun all wrapped up into a wordy package. I highly recommend you check them out.

But the real reason I got so high off the night was that I got to read with one of my all-time favorite authors, Blake Nelson.

When I was a pre-teen/teenager, my best friend, Aimee and I would lie on her bedroom floor in Palmdale, California and pore over her collection of Sassy magazines like they were the Holy Grail reissued in pulp-paper form. That magazine was a window into an untouchable, fantastical world that was a far cry from the boring lives we led - it showed you that, though you may be toiling in suburban drudgery, one day you might get to escape (go to college) and then maybe if you were lucky, you might find yourself in the magical Manhattan world that Sassy promised you was out there.

Sassy wasn't like the other teen magazines...there were no Tiger Beat pin-ups, no articles extolling the virtues of marrying your sweetheart right out of High School...it was the cool magazine, the one that introduced you to smart music and interesting people and reminded you that you were pretty damn awesome yourself - even when you mostly felt like the biggest loser 'cause you didn't quite fit into the world you were forced to inhabit.

It was during one of those Sassy binges with Aimee that I read an amazing piece of fiction. It was by a guy called Blake Nelson and it was an excerpt from his book GIRL. It was so good I immediately went out to find the book - only to discover that I had to wait, it wasn't published yet.

Needless to say, I was not deterred - I've always been the kind of person who sees things through to the bitter end - and I went back to the bookstore again and again until finally, one day, GIRL was there, waiting for me.

I adore that book - it's got Todd Sparrow and Andrea Marr and it takes place in Portland and there's music and grunge and sex and falling in love and fitting in and not fitting in and then everything gets all messed up and it's just beautiful. Seriously, I have gifted it to many other women over the years because it encapsulates, for me, what it's like to be a smart, teenage girl. And even if my life was nowhere near as drama-ridden or cool as Andrea's, it didn't matter. I still FELT exactly like Andrea.

So, I got Blake to sign two books for me - yes, I geeked out - and babbled at him about how much I love GIRL (and his other books - they're great, too) and how I pass on copies to people I like...and he was a real sport about it.

It was an awesome night...and even if I'm 34 years old now and world weary and full of piss and vinegar...I still feel a little like Andrea Marr on the inside.


  1. That is totally one of the many things I love about you, Amber; your sheer love of books, because that is something I can relate to.
    I understood very early the power of the written word with a book I read at school, "Of mice and men", and that masterpiece still moves me everytime I read it. I love many kinds of stories and each of them brings me something : Stephen King (who's so much more than an horror writer), Ray Bradbury (who's so much more than a sci-fi writer), John Irving, John Steinbeck, Joe Lansdale, Neil Gaiman , Michael Chabon, Tolkien, William Golding, Cormac Mac Carthy...and I could continue for a long time. Some of the characters dreamed up by those writers are very close to me, as Andrea Marr is very close to you...but I still never had the chance to talk to a writer I like as you did recently.
    If there was a book club called the CBW, the Classy Book Whores (and I say that with a special wink to the lovely Angry Greek Girl), you sure would be the President :)

    And, before I leave, I just read the first 200 pages of Serpent's Storm. Truly awesome ! Best Callie book so far, mademoiselle !

  2. Joe aka AmberAddictMarch 26, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Hey Amber I'm sorry it took so long to read your blog I always enjoy it! I'm so glad you had a good night. Don't worry about geeking out everyone does it including me both times I was lucky enough to meet you. I hope I wasn't too annoying thank you for being so nice about it!

    Okay I'm not sure this is not a very manly thing to say but I think the book Girl sounds like a great read to quote Xander Harris " I so need male friends" LOL

    For what it's worth you might feel world weary but it doesn't show! :)

  3. Maybe it's the sappy romantic in me, but I like the original better. This one came off a bit... creepy.