Book Stuff

In response to a couple of comments on this blog:

First of all, yes, the book should be available any time now. You can also pre-order it through your local bookseller. It’s been printed and I have exactly one copy, but many more are rolling out of the warehouse and into bookstores as we speak.

The official publication date for the book is January 23. Nothing really happens on a book’s pub date, at least not unless you’re J.K. Rowling. There will be no television appearances or long lines at the bookstore. The book will already be in stores by then, and I will have already done a few author events close to home. Shortly after that, the worms and I will head to the Bay Area, down to Southern California, and up through the Pacific Northwest. Looks like there may even be a stop or two in the Midwest.

Went to a party last night without the worms. It wasn’t really a worm kind of event. Still, everybody asked about the book and they did what people always do when the subject comes up: they said, “Hey, I have a worm story for you.” I don’t know what it is about worms as opposed to, say, bees or caterpillars, but everybody seems to have some kind of story about worms. I’ve heard about mothers who led their children on worm picking expeditions before fishing trips, toddlers who insisted on relocating worms off sidewalks after rainstorms, and rebellious teenagers who, despite threats of severe punishment from school officials, ate worms onstage during the high school talent show.

Other people, if they don’t have a worm story, seem to have a burning worm question, something they’ve been wanting answers to all their lives: If you cut a worm in half, do you really get two worms? (No. The head will grow a new tail, but the tail usually won’t grow a new head.) How do worms mate? (They line up head-to-tail and swap fluids. They’re hermaphrodites.) And what about those worms that survived the space shuttle? (Those were nematodes, microscopic cousins of earthworms.)

Which leads me to the David Sedaris story. I met him at his show here in Humboldt County a few months ago. Our local bookseller was supplying books for him to sign in the lobby; when I reached the front of the line she leaned over to David and said, “She’s just written a book about worms.” David looked up and said, “Hey, I have a question about worms. During my show I tell a story about the worms on the space shuttle, and a last summer I met a guy who said that they weren’t actually worms.”

“Right,” I told him, a little star-struck and therefore tongue-tied. I adore David Sedaris and felt like a fool talking to him. “Those were nematodes. C. elegans.”

“So why does everybody call them worms?”

“I don’t know. It sounds better. It’s like paying them a compliment to call them a worm. I mean, they are worms—they’re all part of the worm family tree—but they’re not the kinds of worms we usually think of.”

He nodded sagely and scribbled a note in my copy of Holidays on Ice thanking me for the worm information. I put the book on a shelf in my office alongside a collection of crusty old British books on worm anatomy and biology. Sedaris has a thing for strange old medical texts himself; I think he’d appreciate the tribute.