Dear Chuck,

An author friend of mine is traveling around the country promoting his new book.  It is rumored that middle-aged groupies are throwing themselves at this similarly middle aged author.  What should he do?


Looking out for a friend
Springfield, Illinois



Dear Looking out for a friend,

As an author who is traveling around the country promoting a book myself, I can relate to the joyful fantasy of having groupies, that small moveable feast of femme-fans who are willing to follow a celebrity around on tour, eagerly offering sexual favors and unbridled groin privileges because they are awed by the talent or disheveled good looks of their bookish idols. Little else can rival the satisfaction knowing that there are at least a few uninhibited women who are willing to be part of the entourage of a literary figure, and are eager to tender the most personal of all offerings. The ultimate “kindness of strangers” by unconstrained devotees has made book touring much more tolerable for a few lucky writers.

I often stare off into the crowd wondering which of the attractive women who have stumbled into my reading may have secret designs to lure me behind the bookstore’s Curious George display after I sign the last book, recklessly ripping off their clothing and ravishing me in ways I had previously never thought physiologically possible, showing their appreciation for, perhaps, my exquisite sense of imagery or highly intoxicating use of gerunds. Until now, I am sad to admit, each and every one in my audience, to the person, has remained fully clothed both during and after my signings and the closest I ever came to what I thought was a proposition was a minor misunderstanding in a fairly noisy bookstore when a young nubile woman who had pre-ordered a copy of my book actually said, “Where do I pick up the copy that’s due me,” but regrettably, I seemed to hear only the words “pick up” and “do me.”

I continue to wish for what I would consider as an author to be, “fan admiration with perks.”

It is rumored that literary groupies, though small in number, have been around as long as the printed word, and that the legendarily rakish Geoffrey Chaucer, touring with his newly released Canterbury Tales stirred the sensual shackles of noble maidens and wretched wenches alike with passages such as:

With hym was hus sone, a yong Squer
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler;
With lokkes cruller, as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of even lengthe,
And wonderly delyvere of greet strengthe.
   -Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Squire

These lines written in Middle English, the precursor to modern English and a language that was apparently not overly fussy about spelling, inexplicably seemed to ignite the flammable sexual viscera of impressionable 14th century London women, and we can only assume that the lot of female groupies would drop subtle propositional hints in the selfsame Middle English, whispering such sweet come-ons as, “Geoff, wouldde ye not caer to fykk a bit?”

Literary figures were the movie and rock stars of bygone eras. It is a sure bet that even lesser lettered luminaries such as James Fennimore Cooper often “got a little” and there was probably some guy in 1846 who went around boasting that he “did ALL the Bronte sisters.”

When it comes to getting women, rock musicians and movie stars have traditionally scored better than authors, even well known authors. I think that Mick Jagger still gets laid on tour a lot more than, say,Tom Wolfe, and you might think that the odds would have evened out now that both are well into their 60s.

Sure, authors are not usually tattooed and do not sport piecings. We seldom fit the “bad boy” image, perform without shirts, or attract swarms of woman with unfettered access to quality drugs and incalculable volumes of alcohol.

The closest we come to any body markings are smudges of hard-to-wash-off black ink on our fingers from the leaking Sharpies we often use to autograph books, and the best we can hope to offer in the way of drugs is some of our Zoloft or perhaps a hit of Lipitor if we want to get a woman into a hotel suite and watch her experience the high we simultaneously enjoy as we get our cholesterol levels to fall ever slightly.

Still, there are in fact women who would prefer sleeping with a mid-list author, even over pop musicians. These are not women with lips rings, who are tethered for 19 hours a day to their iPods, or are the kind of free spirited types to trash a hotel room, but are more likely to be over 38, on the way home from their day jobs as Human Resource professionals, and would prefer to make love with NPR’s All Things Considered on in the background to “set the mood.”

With this historical backdrop, I must admit that I have yet to attend a reading where anyone has ever thrown a pair a thong panties or a room key in my direction. I have never been asked to sign a body part. Dressed in my tweed sport coat and open neck cotton shirt, I have yet to get a woman at a signing to swoon, even a little.

I would love a post-literary humpty romp, but the likelihood of one happening as I tour Cleveland or parts of suburban Connecticut are simply wishful.

As for your friend who claims women are throwing themselves all over him, consider whether perhaps the reports are just bits of fancy and whether the hours of driving from lonely bookstore to lonely bookstore have finally gotten to him.

Authors do have vivid imaginations, and when you stop to think about it, isn’t making a contrived fictional scenario sound quite plausible what they do all the time? If a writer can convince you that his made-up characters actually exist or that a pack of satanic wild dogs has eaten all the children in Chicago, what would be so hard about getting you to believe that he was able to find some desperate book store customer willing to perform a quickee.

Indeed, most of these stories are probably exaggerations concocted by frustrated authors as they return from a series of a dismally attended readings, as they curse their unhappy writer lives, and tearfully wonder why they decided to pick up a pen and paper at age 13 and not a guitar like the normal kids did.

But if there actually are woman throwing themselves in front of your friend, I say “Carpe Diem,” which I know as the mantra for living for the day, but which coincidentally rock stars erroneously think means, “Do it on the carpet!” Perhaps we can increase the sexual capital of the literati if we can make women think that having their way with a writer is as cool as doing it with, say, Brad Pitt.

To all my hopeful writer colleagues, I can only repeat what Chaucer advised, to wit, “Why not lette these willinge and loos womene skrewe yur brains oot, too?”

I will keep you posted on my own tour. As far as your fantasizing friend is concerned, I would suggest that after signing the last book at a reading, he quietly saunter over to the Curious George display and peek behind it, in the off-chance some naked NPR listener is patiently waiting there.

I hope this helps.