Leaping at The Chance For More Readers?

Novelist Valerie Martin, left, with her longtime editor, Nan Talese. Martin's works have won effusive praise but only a modest readership.
Novelist Valerie Martin, left, with her longtime editor, Nan Talese. Martin's works have won effusive praise but only a modest readership. (By Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)
By Bob Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 1, 2007

This is what it's come to, folks: A distinguished editor and a widely respected writer are talking about getting naked and jumping off cliffs.

The setting is lunch at Al Tiramisu in Dupont Circle. The editor is Doubleday's Nan Talese, who has taken the train down from New York for the occasion. The writer is Valerie Martin, whose latest novel is "Trespass."

The topic at hand: What will it take to get the American public to pay attention to Martin's book?

"I remember thinking a number of years ago," says Talese, that "pretty soon we're going to have to have in our contracts: 'And the author promises to tour across the United States with no clothes on.' "

"I'm too old for that," Martin says.

"No clothes!" Talese repeats.

" 'And the author will perform death-defying feats,' " Martin adds.

"Death-defying feats!"

"Jumping off cliffs and wires!"

There is a brief pause, during which a listener tries to imagine Martin, who's in town for a reading and who appears not to have an exhibitionistic bone in her 59-year-old body, impersonating Lady Godiva or launching herself across the Snake River Canyon like the late, great Evel Knievel in drag.

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