Years ago, when Christopher Paul Curtis' novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 had just been published, I went to Missouri's Write to Learn conference and heard him speak. A veteran of these conferences, I would always get sucked in, and would end up buying a number of books that I would devour. This year, I swore, would be different. Having books all over the house already, I made a promise to myself: I would not buy any books this time...
Unfortunately, after hearing him read an excerpt of his book at dinner on Friday night, I was compelled to purchase a copy. It was so funny, and so poignant at the same time, I just had to. But I was angry. I was furious with Curtis for making me buy his book. So I told him...
The next morning---as always---featured a breakfast buffet, and lo and behold, I happened to be in line right behind Christopher Paul Curtis. Since I don't have a drop-dead gorgeous body or face, I have to make myself memorable in other ways. I chose the "shock" route.
"You know, you really pissed me off."
Me, menopausal, frumpy figure and frizzly grayish-brown hair, skin the color of looseleaf notebook paper. Him, much taller and much younger, with dredlocked hair and skin the color of dark caramel.
To his credit, he did not react in any visible way, except to ask, "I did?" (Perhaps he has dealt with a generous helping of crazy white women in the past?) I quickly told him how I planned on not buying any books, but I just had to after listening to his story. We both laughed (perhaps Curtis a bit relieved). Even years later, I hope he took it as it was intended: a supreme compliment.
Both of the books I have read of his are well-crafted and have a great story line---a rarity these days. Many novels have a great plot, and some are honed well, but the story is lacking. These two books are the "total package."