Last night in Capitola, California, the lights went out in the middle of a radio show interview/reading I was taping from a bookstore.  I was reminded of my 10th-grade production of “Born Yesterday,” when a huge oil painting on the wall of the set fell down in the middle of one of my big speeches.  (Cast against type, I had been given the Judy Holliday role.  Usually, I had the Thelma Ritter parts.)  For years, I thought about how, in the dumb-blonde accent I had cultivated after watching the movie version several times, I should’ve said something like, “Jeez, these walls sure are cheap!”  But instead I just flushed deeply, felt like fainting, glanced helplessly into the wings where my drama teacher stood cringing, and kept going.

Last night I didn’t feel like fainting or anything, but I did keep going, because the host, a seasoned, articulate radio person, essentially shrugged and kept up the (now untaped) interview.  The audience stayed in their seats.  Had they tried to leave, they might have tripped.  As the last of the light faded from the Northern California sky, I and another writer, Alta Ifland, spoke about our work.  I wanted to quote a line from her collection of stories, but was unable to read it from the book in the darkness.  An audience member helpfully approached me with a mini-flashlight.  No one else seemed particularly fazed; they are used to far more extreme moments out there.  We finished up the interview, which by now had a seance-like atmosphere, and I managed to summon up the spirits of my grandmother, my drama teacher, Judy Holliday and Virginia Woolf, who all said, “Way to go.”  Or maybe that was just the bracing Northern California air going to my head.

Am feeling happy  because of a very good review of my novel in the New York Times Book Review today, though I am still slightly apprehensive as to whether the electricity here in Portland at Powell’s, where I am reading shortly, will prove reliable.  Stay tuned.