Still, a good story — one that moves and illuminates — will hold them, I think, if you read it with joy and persuasion. On the Tortilla Curtain tour (a mere 25 cities in this country and then off to Europe, and god I wonder what I’m doing with my life), I read a new story I was hot on at the time, just the sort of thing I like to lay on all of you out there — starts funny, heartwarming character, novel situation, aren’t we having fun?, and then turns grim as Bosnia — and it worked, though it took a full 50 minutes to read. No one asked me about feet-in-ears or bees during the Q&A, because they were all trying to catch their breath before we shifted gears back into the absurd.
Finally, and let me warn you, there are your friends. They show up. They love you. But they, like you, are major-league hams, and they can’t fathom why you’re onstage and they’re not. So they listen in the dark, with all the rest of them, and lie in wait for the Q&A. In the spirit of generosity and friendship, and after the first 10 questions have already gone down, you recognize them. "Yes, son," you say. "You in the back." And then your friend rises with two questions on his lips: "How old are you, anyway, and is your hair real?"
They call this the intellectual life.