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Alec Baldwin and Andrew Mueller on book tour bummers

September 25, 2008 | 12:30 pm

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Actor Alec Baldwin has co-authored a book on the struggles of post-divorce fatherhood. "A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce" is, William Georgiades writes in today's paper, "an exhaustive, harrowing and deeply felt recounting of Baldwin's experience divorcing Kim Basinger and subsequent petitioning for joint custody of their daughter, Ireland." And it sounds like dealing with custody issues in the courts is just one of the things Baldwin finds harrowing — don't ask him to go on book tour. From Georgiades' article:

"If you asked me the truth, I wouldn't even be sitting here talking to you," [Baldwin] said warmly enough. "I wouldn't do any press for the book. I have no interest in doing this. When my obligatory press turn for the book is over, you'll never hear me talk about this again. Ever."

OK, 'nuff said. At least he's candid.

Across the Atlantic, "semi-retired rock journalist" Andrew Mueller is blogging about touring for his book "I Wouldn't Start From Here: The 21st Century and Where It All Went Wrong" for the Quietus (Parts 1, 2 and 3). No tour, he says, lives up to the rock 'n' roll ideal of sex and drugs and endless fun:

tours are only fun when they're someone else's tour, in which case they're about the most fun you can have. When they're your own tour, as most people who undertake such things will confide after a few drinks, they're an excruciating, dignity-destroying process which will steadily cause you to loathe, in this order, your most recent work, your audience, yourself, everyone, everything.

Mueller's book, which will be out in the U.S. next year, is described by the Guardian as "a fresh, irreverent, wry and jovial jaunt of a guidebook around our violent and baffling modern world." As he jaunts around England on his book tour, it is almost inevitably raining, and frequently houses are less-than-packed. "Despite the interview I'd done with the local BBC Radio station," he writes, "my audience at the Borders branch on Bristol's handsome Clifton Promenade consists, in its entirety, of the parents of an ex-girlfriend."

This summer, Ann Patchett bemoaned similar troubles in her early days of book touring, in the Atlantic. But Mueller isn't just moaning. For him, the clouds clear — metaphorically, at least — in York.

I read the section about meeting Tirana’s mayor again, and a bit about talking to American soldiers in Baghdad just after they’d taken the city. When I solicit questions, there’s an intriguing contribution from an officer’s mess-sounding sort who explains that his interest was piqued because he’d also worked in the Middle East. I ask in what capacity. “I’d rather not say,” he beams (later, after everyone else leaves, he explains himself further, leaving me in no doubt that he’s genuine — however, were I to pass on what he relates, I’d be in the invidious and inconvenient position of having to kill all of you). Others want to know how I’d characterise my politics (“Increasingly bewildered,” I answer) and there’s a good discussion about the intersection of tragedy and comedy. Best of all, at least from the perspective of the author whose ego has, of late, endured a bit of a kicking, there’s an actual queue for signed copies....

Which is the lingering hope behind all book tours, and, I suspect, the reason authors undertake them at all. Not for the (distant) hope of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll — but for the chance of connection with people who will genuinely engage with their work. Stand in line for a signed copy, even. 

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of Alec Baldwin promoting his book at the 2008 BEA conference by Carolyn Kellogg

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