A nice crowd appeared on a beautiful afternoon at Off Square Books to meet Joe Hill
, on tour with the paperback edition of Horns
. Joe took a seat near the signing table and immediately began chatting with those who were seated for the reading, his sense of humor and conversational engagement cruising along at a fast clip.
As he began his reading with the first sentences – “Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances….” –Joe donned his plastic horns and flipped on the illumination button. “The horns accessorize with anything,” he said, turning them off. Reading on, he would turn on the horns as a caution device anytime he came to a passage that was grotesque, racy, or scary. As he got a bit deeper into the story and its characters, the horns went off and on several times.
“You can’t have a good book without the devil,” he explained at the beginning of the Q & A session, which was, as these things go, excellent. When asked he mentioned some of his favorite books and writers, Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories
, Neil Gaiman
, comic books in general and Brian K. Vaughn
in particular, David Mitchell
(“the most talented writer of his generation”), and Townie, by Andre Dubus
, who was here just a week ago.
He kindly answered the question he surely gets everywhere – what’s it like to have famous writer parents? (Joe’s ‘rents are Tabitha and Stephen King), and gave a lovely response about how fortunate he had been to grow up in a house where all he knew, really, was “books, writing, and stories.” Joe said he’d been wanting to come to the South, with an expectation of some kind of Southern Gothic experience for which our literature is famous, but finding instead, almost disappointingly, that “everyone here is really so nice,” then adding, “well, almost nice like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery
He signed the rest of the books, then was off for catfish at Ajax, where he sat at a front table next to the open windows as pedestrians and a puppy paraded by in the fading daylight savings time. “I could be happy here,” he said, “right at this window, reading books, having a beer, watching people go by.” We hope to see him again in Oxford. RH