How do you keep your head on straight during a book tour? Besides having regular little talks with your ego. I brought along the tiny volume of letters between Margaret Laurence and Gabrielle Roy. They wrote to each other starting in 1976, when Laurence was 50 and her last novel already several years in the past, and Roy in her late sixties – both of them noble warhorses afflicted with various sorrows and illnesses, deeply in sympathy with each other and each other’s work. The letters are “soul-to-soul.” I read them with a pencil, putting a stroke beside certain lines where they talk about what really matters. The capacity of a book to touch another person, to open minds and hearts rather than close them, that’s what matters.
Night struggles. Sleeping pills are very bad boyfriends. You trust them, they leave you high and dry. At 1:55 a.m. you wrestle with a small yogurt, breaking off the flap, finally removing the lid, and eat it with a plastic fork. It’s just a reading, you say. It’s just an interview. There will be make-up for the face and adrenalin for the brain. Everything’s going to be all right.
I have the great luck to read several times with Miriam Toews. Her daring is what I love. That fearlessness she has. Her splendid strong angular face is full of humour and energy. I hear her read the first chapter of her novel four times and never tire of it.
In four days I’ll be home.