Wednesday, January 22, 2003

On Friday night the belter and I went to the Montmartre Café to see Marcello Di Cintio read from his new book, Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa. Also in attendance were John Vigna (Print Futures Class of ’01), his girlfriend Anne-Marie, and Carla Elm. John, Carla and the belter know Marcello from the Otherwords literary festival, where they attended workshops, readings, and generally wallowed in each other’s wonderfully chosen words for a few days.

During the reading I was once again struck by how many parallels there are between the publishing world and the music industry, especially at the independent level. The perils for the fledgling artist are similar.

The Montmartre was another stop on Marcello’s cross-country tour to promote his new book—one more gig, if you will. He had little advance publicity. The Georgia Straight listed the reading (a listing arranged, I presume, by his publisher, Insomniac Press), but there were no posters at the venue. Marcello’s reading the night before at a travel bookstore had gone badly. The staff generally ignored him, and they closed half the store before he started. Unfortunately, this was the half with the cash register, which meant that no one who liked what they heard could buy a book.

So, on to the Montmartre for Friday night. Here’s Marcello, who’s traveled in pretty scary parts of the world, worked his ass off to record what he’s experienced, gotten a publishing deal, put out the book, gone across Canada with a box of copies to sell, and the only people who show up are his friends.

There's one important difference between a book tour and touring with a band, however. Authors don't sell t-shirts. (I think they should. When the belter goes out for her book, she should offer a complete selection of long sleeves, tees, baby-tees, panties, headbands, stick pins and belt buckles for her public to lap up.)

When Marcello finished, we congratulated him and settled down to some dessert crepes while a jazz trio (who turned out to be really good) set up their gear. Anne-Marie, the belter, and I discussed Quebec metal bands: Voivod, Obliveon, Grimskunk. I’d forgotten I’d seen the last band once—Smash and I in a Starfish Room full of homesick Quebecers. Were we there to see the smalls? I can’t remember.

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