My college friend Deb Harkness came to Cleveland a couple of weeks ago, on her book tour for her #1 New York Times bestseller Shadow of Night. She was originally scheduled to appear at a branch of our local library, but so many people signed up to attend, the library moved the event to the auditorium of the high school — which was filled to capacity. Eager readers came from all over the area, other states — and at least one came from Texas!
Deb’s audience clearly loves her, which is only right, as she is incredibly brainy, wise and droll. (Case in point: We went to dinner with her the night before her appearance. As we reminisced, I said that I’d gotten so used to her being a Southern Californian — she teaches at USC — that I couldn’t recall where she was originally from; she explained that she hails from the far outer suburbs of Philadelphia — “not on the Main Line.”
|The author regrets to announce …|
“Like, um … Lancaster?” I guessed.
“No, not that far out,” said Deb. “We were Amish Adjacent.”*)
Fans of her novels lined up for an hour before her reading & talk to have Deb sign their books (and for an hour after her talk, for that matter). As she began her remarks, Deb said that a boy waiting in line with his mom had asked her, “Are there any dinosaurs in your book?”
She had to tell him, ruefully …. “No dinosaurs.”
Which is a darn shame, but Shadow of Night seems to be doing pretty well without them.
P.S. It’s not too much of a spoiler to relate that Shadow of Night involves time travel back to 1600s England, where the novel’s main character discovers there is a distinct lack of modern tableware. Coincidentally, the day after Deb’s appearance, a culture-newsy web site I frequent featured this fascinating article on the history of the fork, which, it turns out, features enough drama, intrigue and whimsy to rival any novel.
*For the uninitiated, “Beverly Hills Adjacent” is a euphemism used by real estate salespeople, and the upwardly (but-not-that-upwardly mobile), to obscure the fact that a property is not actually in Beverly Hills. Eric Spiegelman notes, “If someone tells you they live Beverly Hills Adjacent, they’re selling something.”
“X adjacent” isn't always code for “we're selling proximity to your betters”, though it often is. In the 1990's, sneaky developers in the Valley started weaseling the boundaries of the famous 90210 zip code over the hill. The USPS eventually caught on and told them they would refuse delivery on such letters. (It seems ironic, given the trends in first class mail and small package delivery, that the bulk of traffic directed by zip code is liable to be carried by UPS and FedEx in the future.) And then there are places like my own 90720, which mostly covers neighboring Los Alamitos, but also our own unincorporated habitat of Rossmoor. Once upon a time, we had our very own zip code of 90721, but that vanished with the post office that served it. So here we are, neither fish nor fowl. A similar sort of thing exists with the Torrance zip code 90501, which serves Old Town but also picks up some of what used to be called the Shoestring Strip connecting San Pedro to the rest of Los Angeles; now it goes by the name of Harbor Gateway, but everyone living there claims a Torrance address, even though few of them are eligible for its schools.