Thursday, September 02, 2010

Coming soon: the dumbest author reading Q & A questions of all time

How many times have you gone to an author's reading at a book store and heard someone ask a question that made you want to crawl under your chair?

Cover your ears?

Flee the store?

There's one in every crowd -- that one person who's got to raise his hand and ask Alice Munro if she's related to Marilyn. I'm putting together a partial list of the dumbest Q and A questions of all time --- and no, I won't spare myself on this list because I've asked a few doozies in my time, including a question to Janet Malcolm that was so confounding, even to me, that she couldn't answer at all.

So far I've got a list of dumb, cringe-worthy questions that people have asked to such luminaries as Toni Morrison, Joan Didion and others. If you have any examples of your own, send in. If not, stay tuned.

Here is a partial list of some of the loopiest questions I've heard during the many author events I've attended. Most are verbatim (or, at the very least, I've tried to remember them and reproduce them as accurately as posisble.)

I think i'm entitled to write about this since I, personally, have asked incomprehensible questions at authors events. I once asked a question to Janet Malcolm that was so nervous and loopy that she literally did not know what I was talking about and could not provide any answer at all.

Here are some of the choicest moments:

asked to Joan Didion in New York City during an event to promote The Year of Magical Thinking: "So what I want to know is what made you feel the worst? When your husband died or when your daughter died?''

asked to Laurie Garrett, the author of the Coming Plague, at a reading in the Capitola Book Cafe. "I want to know if you think the e bola outbreak was timed to coincide with the release of the movie Virus starring Dustin Hoffman.''

asked to a Steinbeck biographer Jay Parini by drunk person. "Steinbeck knew he was good, didn't he? I mean, he really, really knew he was good!''

asked to a Steinbeck biographer by same drunk guy. "that Steinbeck, he was a real sonovabitch wasn't he? I real sonavabitch!''

asked to Toni Morrison in New York City (during the middle of a Q and A): "Can I read you some of my poems right now?''

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