Reading the Sunday paper is one of my favorite rituals. Growing up, our family subscribed to the Los Angeles Times. When we moved to London, I got in the habit of reading the Sunday Times. If I really wanted to luxuriate, I’d add the Observer. And by “habit,” I mean I knew to the minute what time the paper would land on our doorstep. If it was late, I stood there opening and closing the door, waiting.
I immediately noticed something about British papers: their Book sections never review novels on the front page. Or the first six pages. Or eight. Fiction reviews are relegated to the back. Biography, History, Politics — nonfiction is always accorded precedence. Fiction, I gathered, is regarded as less substantial than other writing. In a British paper’s book section, a biography of Shakespeare could be reviewed on the front page. A Shakespeare play, never.
This morning in Austin, I went for coffee and picked up the paper that promises All the News That’s Fit to Print. As I sat there browsing the paper, I saw that the front page of the Book Review features a novel, Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Hallelujah, I thought. I’m in a land where writing is writing, and novelists can get at least this kind of respect.
Then I saw that the ad on the contents page is for the excellent new thriller Always Watching, by Chevy Stevens. Cool, I thought. I provided a quote for the novel. Then I bent over my coffee and squinted more closely at the ad. What do you know.
And that’s how, at a Starbucks on Guadalupe Street in Austin, Texas, I found my name in the New York Times.