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Last Friday night, Elliott Bay Book Company's new reading room was standing-room-only for the first time ever. A couple hundred people turned out to see Sherman Alexie moderate a discussion with Christos Tsiolkas, Australian author of The Slap, and Dutch novelist Tommy Wieringa, author of Joe Speedboat. This is the first time either author had been published in the United States; they were touring in advance of the PEN World Voices Festival, a New York City literary festival going on right now.

Alexie provided the audience with a brief preview of his his PEN World Voices closing speech, which he'll be giving next weekend. "I'll be giving Amazon more shit there," he said, adding, "Anybody here from Amazon? Fuck you! Libertarian fuckheads; they don't even have the balls to be conservative."

Alexie read a couple of poems before introducing the visiting authors. Tsiolkas was charming and sweet ("I'm a soft-spoken Australian," he said, "I'm like Russell Crowe") but Wieringa was the rock star of the two. He tossed quotable lines all over the crowd: When Alexie asked the authors to describe their level of fame in their home countries, Wieringa explained: "I'm constantly reading to old women." Asked about his writing style, he said "I like to write books like some sort of ignorant God." And he asked if anyone in the audience had read Joe Speedboat yet. One woman raised her hand, and Wieringa said, "You're my first reader in America. We'll kiss later on."

Both readers lamented their reading in Bellevue the night before. Wieringa set it up: "We had three people in Bellevue. What happened?" And Tsiolkas knocked it down: "I'm never going back to Bellevue," he announced to great applause. It's often a mistake to judge whether you'd like a book from an author reading, but these authors seemed very similar in person to their own work. Like The Slap, Tsiolkas was quieter, more introspective, with occasional bursts of humor and insight, and Wieringa was outrageous and crazy and attention-getting, just like Joe Speedboat.