My book, my fifth book, was published this week. It's called The Harbormaster's Daughter. And if you'd welcome it, the way you'd welcome a performer to the stage, with a brief round of applause, I'd appreciate it!
It's always anti-climactic when a book comes out--you've put years of work into this thing, suffered bitter shame when it didn't seem good enough, felt godlike when you had some new insight into it, and now...nothing. Or maybe you have a root canal scheduled that day. My second book was published on September 11, 2001-- I went to the New York Times website to read the review and...you know the rest.
This time, though, I went to be interviewed on a local cable tv show, and was ambushed there by a wave of the true excitement of publishing a book: a reader who has been moved by the story, whose sense of the characters is as complex and mysterious as if they were living people in his or her mind. That is the best feeling in the world and it always comes by surprise.
I wished I had a split of champagne in my pocket to share with this woman, who had thought so deeply about characters I'd imagined. She reminded me of my earliest impulse as a writer, which was to save all the things I loved in a form that wouldn't fade. A good book is like a jar of fireflies--it keeps a mysterious moment alive. It's like finding another room in your house, where people talk and think and fall in love and embarrass themselves and manage to triumph in some small way despite the embarrassment…a bit of extra life.
That is what I have aimed to do, what all artists, and all people aim at in one way or another, I think. It's Carnival Week in Provincetown, thousands upon thousands of revelers are arriving, everyone who lives here is working ceaselessly to keep the great tourist machine running smoothly....and my moment of satisfaction is of very little note. But on Thursday as the summer's fever spikes, I'll be grateful for having added another drop to the town's life...(unless I'm having a root canal.)