I woke up in sudden shock today on the A train on the way back from work. A blonde lady in her mid-30s woke me up as she sat next to me on the 59th Street stop. I was alarmed at first, but I turned back into sleep mode when I saw this Black man in a cool busboy cap pedaling his books. He had his three types right on him, all self-published, and all with glossy paperback covers. 2 of them were poetry books and the third another “ghetto story.”
I almost wanted to tune him out like I tend to tune out all the product-pushers around me. The tons of people with their latest product, blog, mixtape, MySpace / Facebook / Twitter page, dance, special recipe as they upgrade their efforts to annoy the hell out of me with their subpar work yet oversold hype. They’re the reason why so many of us stick with only a handful of people to provide us with our whole entertainment and download the rest: no one’s going to pay for a whole product worth only a tenth of its price. I’ve also become better at muting commercials and sniping spam from my various channels in the hopes that I could get focused.
But this was different.
All of a sudden, as he’s promoting one of his books, he caught my ear with a hot line, and another one, and another one, samples of some of his best work in his book. I was intrigued, not because this man had the nerve to interrupt my almost daily iPod listening / napping sessions on the train, but because he had this earnest and proud face as he looked at the books he was promoting.
While it’s easy to don masks of sincerity, I felt a weird connection to his moment of gravitas that I rarely feel with an artist. It’s the same feeling I caught during StaceyAnn Chin’s book reading last week at Barnes N’ Noble, the same feeling I caught when Bassey Ikpi told the world she had a contract for a book on Twitter, and the same feeling I got when the Loisaidas promoted their latest video “No Me Dejes” to their fellow Nativity Mission School alumni. People who actually care about their work get this euphoric and reflective look on their face as if, while they may not have accomplished all they wanted to, they can rest peacefully knowing they’ve made their footprint in the sand, and dug deep into it, too.
For every comment about how great my work is, I always feel humbled by them all, but I’m still waiting for that moment when, after all the writing, the speaking, the promotion, the guest-writing, and the bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome, I can finally hold onto a book with only my name on it, look at it like I can’t believe I wrote it, and frame it. I want to look at that piece of work and never want to read it again, only if people ask for comment about a certain section, and even then, want to be like, “You read it. What do YOU think?” I want to run into a bookstore like Busboys and Poets’ spot in Washington, DC or The Schomberg’s bookstore, see someone pick it up, stare them in the face and say, “Thank you. I mean it.”
I wish I had the money to get a copy of dude’s book, and my book queue is long enough. I can’t imagine how much he loves his book to sell it to people with a wide range of interest … and a low threshhold of tolerance.
Jose, who’s releasing a project in the next month …