Tupelo Hassman: Book Tour as Documentary

Tupelo Hassman graduated from Columbia’s MFA program. Her writing has been published in Paper Street Press, The Portland Review Literary Journal, Tantalum, We Still Like, ZYZZYVA, and by 100WordStory.org, FiveChapters.com, and Invisible City Audio Tours. Tupelo will be filming Girlchild‘s book tour for a short documentary, “Hardbound: A Novel’s Life on the Road.” Her website is www.tupelohassman.com.

I’m making a documentary about Girlchild’s book tour. Let’s take a moment to consider how crazy this sounds.

Yep, totally insane.

Before Girlchild had a pub date, in the years spent in the trenches of editing, commas splicing the air over my head, I dreamt of all I would do on the release of my first novel and I made a single rule: say yes. So: I’m going to far-away cities, book clubs, and schools, I’m surfing couches, slinging merch, and, I’m filming the book tour.

I raised funds to buy the gear and thanks to my 40+ “producers,” got a swanky camera. (Since I’m no kind of photographer, I figured the equipment, at least, should be quite good.) I got a serious tripod (the second time around, the first one broke a leg on the night of Girlchild’s launch). I got batteries, a charger, memory cards, a card reader to transfer each day’s footage to a hard drive. I got a hard drive. Plus, all of the respective cables. And it all goes inside a bag along with the manuals I am constantly referencing. All, that is, except for the tripod. Oh, and film releases. The list becomes less romantic the longer it gets, and yet, my original love for the idea grows, because a film about what happens on a book tour is one I want to see.

Lugging all of this through airports and train stations, having the suspicious-looking tripod sent through again by airport security, I’ve had plenty of reason and time to reconsider, especially given how embarrassing it is to be seen with no less than four pieces of luggage at any one time, but I’m still intent on capturing the mystery that is a book tour. Not the mystery of a first-time novelist on the road (we know that story); the mystery of a novel meeting its community for the first time.

People who show up at bookstores are heroic. They got out from behind their computer screens, they got out from behind their steering wheels, they got out from behind every single excuse that gives us permission to stay at home with another episode of Law & Order: Sweet Vicariousness Unit, and they went to a bookstore. This type of heroism can go unnoticed, but not today.

Whether or not the reader is a dying breed is not Hardbound’s argument. But it’s my hope that the film will still be a record of what these creatures are like; live readers who leave their houses to encounter a book in person, ethereal as unicorns. But better than unicorns. Yes, better than unicorns! While still being magical. More like narwhals or meerkats. The meer-readers who forage for narrative, while remaining, like their cousins the meerkat, not easily domesticated. Hardbound will capture these creatures, horned, sharp-clawed, or opposably-thumbed, capture them just briefly on film, and send them back out into the wild to read another day.

If I remember to take the lens cap off.

See Also:

Read an excerpt from Girlchild on Scribd

Visit Tupelo Hassman on Facebook

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  • I look forward to this documentary. It’s surprising how everything conspires to keep us behind a computer screen these days… I am there now! Let’s all be brave & venture forth into a world that’s still there (thankfully).