Brian Francis gave readings at Third Place Books on August 9 and Bailey/Coy Books on August 10. Here is his review of the people who showed up.
I visited Seattle as part of my tour to promote the paperback release of my novel The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington. As a Canadian, touring the States made me a bit uneasy. There are a fair number of Canucks out there who, like me, have mixed emotions when it comes to you Yanks.
Canadians are a timid clan. On the one hand, Canadians admire the bravado that is the United States of America. Plus, you have all the cool things that Canadians don't: Jack in the Box, alcohol in variety stores, and New York City.
On the other hand, Canadians don't really trust Americans. I think it's because we Canadians get the sense that your culture keeps infiltrating our own. In recent years, we've seen the rise of Wal-Mart, Fox TV, and Starbucks (still not as many as in Seattle, though—good god, people). Canadians always feel like we're conforming to U.S. standards, rather than the other way around.
Case in point: my book got "Americanized" for its U.S. hardcover publication. Every reference to anything Canadian was changed to its American counterpart. Now, I understand that certain things wouldn't make a lot of sense (have any of you heard of Canadian Tire money?) but I thought most of the changes were unnecessary. I'm assuming most Seattle readers could figure out that Woolco is a department store, since that's where the characters shop, and that "United" is a religious denomination, since the characters go to a United church.
Was I wrong? Were the differences between Canadians and Americans more pronounced than I realized? There was only one way to find outby putting Seattle's knowledge of Canada to the test.
My first reading took place at Third Place Books, located in a strip mall in what seemed to be the 'burbs. When the limo driver dropped me off in front of the drugstore next door, I could suddenly relate to Anna Nicole Smith in a way I never thought possible.
"Before I start my reading," I announced to the crowd, "I'm going to ask you some Canadian trivia questions." Anyone who answered a question correctly would win a Canadian chocolate bar called Crispy Crunch (re-named Butterfinger in the U.S. edition of The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington, in case a character eating something bar-shaped and chocolate left you scratching your heads).
"Name a famous Canadian," I said. "Other than Celine Dion."
"Pierre Trudeau," someone said.
I was impressed—until Pierre came up again the following night at my Bailey/Coy reading. Uh, hasn't anyone in Seattle heard of Alan Thicke? Scotty from Star Trek? The mom from Webster? All of them proud, proud Canadians.
"What's the official animal of Canada?" I asked. The question was met with silence. "Anyone?"
A mother in the back row nudged her seemingly angst-ridden teenage daughter. The daughter glared down at the floor. "Knock it off," she said.
"I see someone being prodded in the back," I said, a desperate smile spreading across my face. "Would you like to try to answer the question?"
The mother said, "Go on."
The daughter said, "Cut it out!"
"C'mon, angst girl," I thought to myself. "Chocolate makes teenage problems just melt away. Trust me on this one."
On my way back to the hotel, I pulled a leftover Crispy Crunch out of my bag.
"Spell 'center' the Canadian way," I said to the limo driver.
He was quiet for a moment. "I know it doesn't start with an 's.' Does it?"
I thought about all the Americans I'd met so far on my trip, recalling my reading in Portland the previous night, where I was just about to start when a chubby woman in glasses approached me. "I'd really like to stay for your reading," she said.
"Great," I replied.
"But I have to tell you something." She leaned in toward me and lowered her voice. "If you tap on that microphone, I'll have a seizure. I'll fall out of my chair. Whatever you do, don't tap that microphone."
Ah, America! This request only confirmed what I'd suspected all along:Canadians are just a different breed. I'm not saying Canada doesn't have people prone to seizures due to microphones. But they just would never leave the house.