The Sleep-Over Artist
by Thomas Beller
(W.W. Norton & Company)

When you think of rock n' roll tours you think of excess--an entourage, groupies, drugs, late night parties--but when it comes to writer's tours it's a different story. An author more likely resembles a traveling salesman shuffling town to town, hoping somebody will show up at the reading, then spending the night alone in a hotel room working the remote.

Touring a book called The Sleep-Over Artist you'd think a guy might get a little action, especially one of the most handsome authors known to mankind (think Keanu Reeves if he were tall enough to play basketball). Not so, says Tom Beller, who recently descended into Portland without notice.

"Portland was the high point," Beller says. "The only member of the audience was my friend Steve (Malkmus of Pavement). One book collector showed up late. In some fucked up way it was the best reading I did."

Beller's new book is a collection of stories about growing up horny in New York City. The main character, Alex Fader is a questioning guy searching for love and the meaning of love in a town of endless possibilities.

"I floundered for a long time trying to write a second book after Seduction Theory," Beller says. "I spent some time in Cambodia and tried to use that material, but it didn't go anywhere. So I started writing vignettes using the character from my first book of short stories."

In a way, The Sleep-Over Artist resembles Portnoy's Complaint groped by Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Alex Fader--who is a lot like Beller himself--is obsessed with the "twisted force field of girls," their ability to turn a man into Play-Doh with just a glance or a slightly revealing blouse. Replete with unresolved situations, The Sleep-Over Artist mirrors life: i.e. women are never easy and always come with complications.

After the reading, Malkmus chaperoned the author to a few bars looking for nightlife but none was to be found. So they headed back to Steve's house where Tom sampled a new Malkmus solo album. "There's a song on it called 'Church on White.' You gotta hear it."

So the night was not completely dismal. Even if writers don't get groupies, at least they have interesting friends. And after five cities in five nights Beller was ready to head back home. "My car was broken into in San Francisco and all my clothes were stolen. I've been wearing the same clothes for days now. I guess it can't get much worse."