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April 25, 2005

Diana Abu-Jaber On the Road

by Ron Hogan

abu-jaber.jpgDiana Abu-Jaber emailed me a brief account of the first leg of her West Coast tour to promote The Language of Baklava. (I hope we'll get to hear more about the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, but in the meantime, The Elegant Variation gave its readers excellent live coverage of the weekend's events.)

April 20th: On the (unending) flight from Miami to Seattle I sat next to a guy who was perfectly nice but looked like a cross between Chris Elliott (There's Something About Mary) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways). This made me uneasy. Also the flight attendent was fawning over him--turns out that on his previous flight into Miami, he'd inexplicably passed out on board. They'd given him oxygen and strapped him into a jump seat; medics met him when he came off the plane. He said he felt like a movie star. He said he was fine now. It happened that we had the same flight crew and they were falling all over themselves to give him glasses of wine and plates of cheese. He was the Ashton Kutcher of American Airlines flight 17. He asked me why I was going to Seattle. "Book tour," I said eagerly. "Oh, uh hunh," he said. Then he got distracted-- the flight crew had brought him warm cashews. Note to self--if writing doesn't work out, look into fainting on airplanes.
April 21st: Evergreen College, Olympia. Where have people put all their piercings and tatoos? They've hidden them! They're passť?! Also, the students didn't look as generally annoyed and scornful as the last time I read at Evergreen, about five years ago. It's some sort of new fashion statement. Non-grunge?

April 22nd: Seattle is unbelieveably wonderful. I always want to live in every city I tour in. Today I bought Seattle shoes and jacket: big, black, grungey. They will be absolutely inappropriate and unwearable in Miami. But that doesn't matter because on tour you've only got today! Elliot Bay reading was fabulous as ever. It was co-sponsored by the Arab Center and afterwards, Rick Simonson, Helen and I all go out for mint tea and baklava with Kay Tarapoulsi (of the Arab Center) at a charming little spot nearby that turns out to be a rai-blasting hookah bar. I get high through combination of sleep deprivation and second-hand apple-cinnamon hookah smoke.

That night I get two hours of sleep. I wake around 2 a.m. in the (fabulous) Author's Suite at theAlexis Hotel to the distinct sound of an old-fashioned typewriter. Instantly remember Chuck Palahniuk telling me years ago that there's a ghost "associated" with that room. Thanks, Chuck. Spend rest of night staring at ceiling, freaking out.

April 23rd: I adore Portland and think of it as my second hometown. Am interviewed at KBOO by lovely man I think might be Jerry Garcia's older brother in another life. At Heathman Bar, my posse of girlfriends shows up. We discuss our shoes and tax returns. News is bad.

Portland staged their first ever Wordstock Festival. I am dazzled, turning around to gawk at Norman Mailer and John Irving. After my reading, Kent Haruf and later Susan Orleans stop by to say howdy-- I'm so flattered I can barely form words. After the event, Lorraine and I sneak out to Burgerville for strawberry shakes (huckleberry shakes won't be in season till end of summer) and turkey cheeseburgers.

April 24th: I'm in Los Angeles and about to go to the LA Times Festival of Books, but first I must take an opportunity to squawk about how I'm always getting ripped on by the Arab critics. Today, the Washington Post ran a review of The Language of Baklava. So that's great! But darn it all, they gave it to an apparently Arab reviewer who openly admits that she didn't like my second novel, Crescent. (So why did she agree to review my new book?) Thus ensues the usual disparaging review in which I'm generally accused of inauthenticity. Depressing on too many levels to ennumerate. Ugh. I hope the Angelenos are nice to me today!

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