Sep 18, 2012

To my Book Tossers

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Recently, on artist Austin Kleon’s Tumblr he cited a New Yorker profile by D.T. Max. The profile is about David Foster Wallace:
[Novelist Mark] Costello remembers, “Junior year, David and I were sitting around talking about magical realists—I think it was ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’—and someone said, ‘Pynchon’s much cooler.’ We said ‘Who?’ He threw a copy of ‘Lot 49’ at us. For Dave, that was like Bob Dylan finding Woody Guthrie.”
He goes on to think about that simple transaction… a book is casually tossed, taken home and read, and it changes everything. Kleon says, “…usually when we recall these transactions, the Somebody isn’t important, it’s the book, or our hero who catches it, who’s important… but the Somebody, or the Book Tosser, is the unsung hero here: if it weren’t for the toss, there wouldn’t be a catch.”
I have been working on a play on commission for the Sundown Collaborative Theatre. I found out about SCT from my friend and colleague Chris Taylor. Even though I submitted work to the organization on my own, Taylor would be the person I cite with brokering the opportunity for me. My acquaintance with him allowed my later connection with Sundown. My career is filled with these connections. 
One of my favorite collaborators (and people, for that matter), Chris Humphrey down in Austin, was introduced to me by my friend Jeff Swearingen. In a way, he was the book tosser for all the creative work Humphrey and I have done together since then. These little interpersonal connections and transactions are important. I’m sensitive to them. The busier one becomes the harder it is to keep straight who lead who to what, but I try to stay aware of it.
Actually, I used to be overly sensitive about the whole thing. I have been the book tosser myself many times. I was good at it. And honestly, it used to chaff a bit when no recognition was thrown my way. I kind of carried around this secret knowledge that because of me -  because I’d introduced a person to something or someone -  they prospered, be it professionally, creatively or practically. The person would never remember, of course. Or if they did, they never said anything. If asked, it was that person’s own personal victory. He or she had been in the right place at the right time. It was all “them,” with no outside help whatsoever.
Anyway, that is how I used to be. And like I said, I realize it has become more and more difficult to remember all these book tossers in my life. In fact, I have built up a weird defense, in a way, against gathering too many more.  
I “discover” stuff on my own. It is a joke that one of my friends will say “hey, check out this cool website…” I’ll either ignore it or half-heartedly peruse it. Then six months later I’ll stumble on it and spread the same news back to my friend about the awesome website I “discovered.” It is a bit of an amusing running gag in my small, close circle, but I believe this habit did not develop out of a vacuum. 
In light of having both been burned in the past as an excellent book tosser (kind of like what Malcolm Gladwell called a “maven” in his book THE TIPPING POINT) as well as the fact that it is difficult to keep who has done what for me straight on the other end, of course I’d be defensive. And aware.
If any of my book tossers are reading this post… Thank You. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without each and every one of you.

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