Ah, the perks of living in a writer-loving, writer-centric area: great readings, all the time. Case in point: in a few weeks, Jonathan Safran Foer is coming to the Bull’s Head, the bookstore within the Student Stores here at UNC. I will be honest and say that I have not read either of his books, yet, but I’ve been reading about him and his new one everywhere. The year This Lullaby was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, his first one, Everything is Illuminated, was up for best first novel. So I did see him, albeit from a distance, in the author greenrooom/lounge, where we were all corralled (so to speak) before our various panels and readings. Now THAT was an intimidating scene. It was kind of like walking into the middle school cafeteria for the first time, except everyone was incredibly cool and much smarter than you. I felt like the biggest loser on the planet, carrying my bagel to the end of a table and sitting alone while I watched Nicolas Sparks and George Plimpton and Carl Reiner and such go by. Jonathan Safran Foer was over on the other side of the patio, with Arthur Phillips (who actually won the prize) and Nicole Krauss (who wrote “A Man Walks Into A Room,” which I also hear is great, but haven’t yet read. I am so behind, can you tell? I mean, this was years ago! But I digress.) So that was my sighting. I think I’ll try to get to the reading, so I can have another one. And, God, maybe finally read the book? Honestly.

The Bull’s Head actually has a track record of getting really cool, big name authors. Chuck Palahniuk came a couple of years back, as did Dave Eggers, who was great. The signing line for Dave Eggers was so long I gave up any hope of standing in it, but one of my students, bless her heart, was at the very end. I told her that most likely, he would not get to her, as if he did he’d have to stay forever, but she was determined, and offered to get my book signed as well. And you know what? He stayed until every last person got their book signed. HOURS. The next day, she brought me my book. She’d told him it was for her instructor, so he wrote: To Sarah. Teach the children well. If not, flunk their lazy asses. Truly one of my favorite inscriptions of all time.

The first big name, though, that I remember coming was Ethan Hawke. This was for his first book, the very first semester I was teaching. On my way up to class, I passed one of my students, who informed my point-blank that she was skipping my class to go buy a book and get it signed. There in the stairwell, I said, “Do you see the irony in this? That you’re skipping your WRITING class to go get a book signed by a writer?” She said she did. I told her fine, go, but be sure to tell Ethan Hawke what she was missing to see him. I have no idea if she did. But I just hope he would not approve. Maybe I should have just flunked her lazy ass. After all, Dave Eggers said it was okay.

Finally, Laurie Halse Anderson is in town this week, reading from HER new book, which I hear is great. Because I am drowing in school commitments, though, I can’t make either of her gigs, but the good news is I hear that she and I are reading together in Austin, when I’m there next week for the Texas Library Association meeting. More info to come, when I have it…..

have a good day, everyone..