The printer wrote to say that my books were ready. I didn’t expect them for another month. A book no one wanted to publish was now out in the world. I rented a car and drove to Michigan. It’s the same trip I took in March for Music to My Eyes but felt very different. It seemed like an ending rather than a beginning.
As I drove I thought about what had changed in the intervening months. The music book was the first I’d designed so I was excited to see the result. I had some hopes that it would connect with people that liked some of the same music as me. I foolishly thought it would change something. But what would that be? Fame and fortune isn’t in the cards. The audience for what I do is small and I’m ok with that. I just need to know that I’m not completely delusional, spitting in the wind, with this stuff. It doesn’t take much to get that bit of validation.
I’ve been wrestling with Soviet Stamps for about five years. Basically since the second cab book. It’s about immigration, childhood, and my beginnings as an artist. I thought it was done about four years ago but everyone I showed it to except my editor had no interest, so I shelved it. Then, after completing Music last year, it started eating at me. I decided to put it out myself, to purge it out of my system, as a way of moving on. That’s why this trip to the bindery was different than the last. I was at peace about a thing I’d been carrying around and there’s no anticipation of what will come of it.
There was no one to meet me a Dekker Bookbinding when I arrived. The receptionist led me through the facility to the loading dock, where a young man helped me load the twenty-four boxes into my rental. The whole thing took about ten minutes. I went for lunch at the same weird family restaurant as last time. There were no elderly ladies bemoaning the absence of their favorite pie this time. I was served by the world weariest waitress. She actually harrumphed when I asked for a refill of water. I tried to order their ‘famous’ apple dumpling but she informed me in an exasperated tone the truck with those wouldn’t arrive till the next day. I wasn’t prepared to wait that long. I had the apple pie instead. It was delicious, despite the fact my waitress had dropped the check before I could take a bite.
I was back in Chicago within six hours of renting the car at the airport. I borrowed a dolly from the bookstore, drove home, and started schlepping the boxes up the stairs. Halfway through, I gave up on the dolly and carried a couple boxes very slowly up the three flights. It was exhausting but felt good when I was done. I celebrated with dinner and drinks at the Duck Inn. It felt like a day I’d accomplished something.
I have a few bookstore things planned in January, but otherwise, I intend to keep promotion of this book pretty low-key. It won’t be on Amazon or Ingram, so it will likely remain pretty much invisible to the book industry. What’s important to me is that I made a thing on my own terms. Maybe it’ll find an audience, maybe it won’t. I plan to move on to the next thing. That’s what keeps me going.
If you’d like a copy, it’s here. Or just ask for one when you see me. I’ll have copies on me (and the music one too), until they’re all gone.
—I wrote a profile of Christian TeBordo and his great new story collection, Ghost Engine, and reviewed an astounding production of Hans Christian Andersen’s Steadfast Tin Soldier at Lookingglass.