That was the sign this afternoon outside Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia. What a great bookstore. Go, the South! And look, if there is a friendlier bookstore clerk anywhere in the country than Frankie, I don’t know where she would be.
We had a small group at the Avid signing on this rainy Sunday, but it was one of my favorite events so far, because it was so intimate. Noah172, one of our best blog commenters here, drove in from a long way away with his beautiful wife. We got to talk for a bit before showtime, and he thanked me for occasioning a great community here. Even though we argue a lot, he said, there’s just something about the regulars in the comboxes that feels right, and neighborly. I consider that high praise, and thank him for it. I can’t tell you readers how great it is to finally meet people whose names I’ve been seeing here for ages and ages. Thank you for reading, and thank you for coming out to support The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming. It really feels like I’m meeting old friends — because, you know, I am. I met a new friend and reader of this blog, Imran, at the Decatur signing. You know how there are just people you feel like you’ve known forever? That’s the deal with him. And I feel that way about lots of y’all that I’m meeting on this tour. So again, thank you. It’s hard to express how gratifying this is to me as a writer.
Noah172 and his wife invited me out for a glass of wine, but alas, I had to hurry up back to Atlanta for a phone interview at the hotel, which just concluded. I was on a conservative news talk station in Denver, and had a wonderful time talking to Matt & Krista of Backbone Radio. It’s still early in the Little Way release, but I’m still blown away by how the message of this book — which is to say, the message of my sister Ruthie’s life, and of the love the people of West Feliciana Parish showed to her and my family there — makes ordinary politics seem so unimportant. It’s like the conservative thinker Yuval Levin said in his NRO review:
…you will also find in it a moving affirmation of the sense that most of us can only discern rarely and vaguely in the bustle of our daily lives—the sense that beyond our petty vanities and momentary worries, beyond arguments and ambitions, beyond even principles and ideals, there is a kind of gentle, caring warmth that is really what makes life worth living. It is expressed through the words and acts of people who rise above themselves, but it seems to come from somewhere deeper. Maybe it’s divine, maybe it isn’t, but it’s real, and it effortlessly makes a mockery of a lot of what goes by the name of moral and political philosophy, and especially of the radical individualism that is so much a part of both the right and the left today.
People get it. When you see people react to a catastrophe like the cancer that tortured and killed my sister Ruthie — I mean, when you see how Ruthie reacted to it, and the active love it inspired from everyone around her — it becomes hard to think in terms of liberal this and conservative that. It’s not that politics becomes unimportant, of course, but rather, as Yuval perceives, it becomes so much less important that the truth and beauty revealed in the courage and joy with which Ruthie endured her suffering, and in the sacrificial love her community gave her, till the very end, and beyond.
The people who loved Ruthie and her family through this were conservatives and liberals both. That doesn’t matter. What mattered is they were her neighbors. They went to church with her, they shopped in the grocery store with her, they taught school with her, they went to the creek with her, they watched their kids play softball together — in short, they shared their lives together. And they shared Ruthie’s slow dying together.
There’s a politics in that.
Anyway, the Avid Bookshop is terrific, and if you want to order one of the signed copies of Little Way I left there, you can do so at their online store. Here’s another reason they’re great; they are:
I bought that bumper sticker at Avid for Julie. There’s a campaign in Athens to get the city to overturn its ridiculous anti-chicken-raising rules. Fight the power! And yes, Ashley Fox-Smith, I bought you one too.