I took this picture after The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was already finished. I was on my way back from a book festival somewhere in the South and completely exhausted. In general, I enjoy book festivals, but the panel I had spoken on at this particular festival had been a bit of a dud. The time of my event had been misprinted in the program, and not unexpectedly, the crowd was pretty thin. (I don’t necessarily draw a big crowd, even when the time is printed correctly!) In any case, it was a long trip to make to speak to a crowd of approximately twelve. I should probably mention here that this is not even close to the smallest crowd I’ve ever spoken to. I once regaled a crowd of two. Can you even refer to two people as a crowd? But back to the photograph…!
I quickly fell asleep on the plane.When I awoke, I was almost home, and the first thing I saw was a paper book and hands reflected in the dark window of the plane. This image was a comfort somehow. It made me feel as if I were in a special fraternity with my seatmate, a person I hadn’t even truly noticed before. The reflected book reminded me of why I write and why I wrote A.J. Fikry. At the beginning of the The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, A.J., for a variety of reasons (the death of his wife, the decline of his bookstore, etc.), has become burnt out on reading. He is an intellectual and he uses his intellect and his taste to isolate himself from others. I think it’s easy to do this. Reading, after all, is a solitary pursuit. However, one of the unexpected boons of reading is the way books connect us to each other. My whole life, I’ve loved spying on what strangers are reading. You can learn as much about a person from the book in their hands as you can from a purse or hair color. It makes me sad that so many people use e-readers these days because it makes spying so much harder! The book on the plane was in a language I couldn’t read. I can’t even tell you what my seatmate was reading that night, only that he was a reader.