Tales of horror: coming face-to-face with authors

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This arose from another thread (Knowing the author). Scott's tale of the nasty Coetzee (who now happens to reside in my hometown) reminded me of a tale of my own, and a desire to hear of others' tales of horror.

The scene: my first ever book signing.
The author: Richard Ford.

Waiting patiently in line, I was carefully switching my copy of The Sportswriter between my hands so it didn't get too sweatsoftened as I pondered the stomach tightening question: Should I try to speak to him, and if so, what should I say/ask? As soon as I decided that I would launch myself into a dialogue with RF, my heart stumbled in my chest as I thought of all the possibilities. Something insightful, something he'd take interest in. It was at the time he'd written that mini-memoir on Raymond Carver. That clinched it. As I reached the end of the line, I slowly approached the great (but short, and with a bad James Taylor haircut) writer. I handed him my tepid paperback. As he finished signing, he handed my book back, and we shook hands. At that moment, a question began to cascade from my mouth. "I've always thought it interesting how when you began writing your prose was quite clipped and reduced. A lot like Carver's. But as you have progressed, you've become a lot more expansive and I can't help but think of how Carver's did too, in stories like "Elephant"." The whole time I was speaking (and trying to work out how to stop), our hand "shake" continued. We were locked in a struggle of wills. As I blathered on, his windexblue eyes fixed more intently on mine. He wouldn't let go. "No. No. It's nothing like Ray's. You're crazy". All I could do was nod. I couldn't speak because I just wanted him to let go of me. "No. That's crazy. Our stuff is nothing alike." I managed to wrench my hand free and slink away. As I turned to look over my shoulder, an army of his fans' eyes looked at me like I was crazy.

David Joyner (David Joyner), Thursday, 19 February 2004 08:52 (sixteen years ago) link

I went to see Stephen Spender read some poems. He took out a fag and never semed to light it, just waved it about. So I got up out of my seat, walked up, and lit it for him. And he thanked me, and smoked the cigarette.

All Bunged Up. (Jake Proudlock), Thursday, 19 February 2004 09:26 (sixteen years ago) link

I once stood smoking with a Famous Author. I didn't know he was a famous author, though, so I talked about myself and my plans for the future. I expect he'll find some way of using the incident in a book one of these days.

SRH (Skrik), Thursday, 19 February 2004 10:30 (sixteen years ago) link

When I was around 11 my parents took me to a book fair in Manhattan. It was a beautiful day and one of the great moments was getting a chance to meet some of my favorite cartoonists like Gahan Wilson and S. Gross. I even met Andy Warhol that day. He was walking around with his polaroid and i had him sign a book i was holding. the mortification and terror came when we walked into a small tent that a publisher had set up and i came face to face with one of my favorite writers at the time, the comic caper novelist Donald E.Westlake (i had weird tastes as a kid). I had read probably a dozen or more of his books. The Hot Rock, Cops & Robbers, Dancing Aztecs, Jimmy The Kid, etc. I loved his books. I bought a paperback from his publisher-that i had already read, but i needed something for him to sign- and waited my turn. I was scared. Finally, he started to sign my book and i knew i had to say something quick. I stumbled and stuttered and asked him:"So, are you working on anything right now?" He looked up, looked around him with an incredulous smile on his face, made a noise that was half snort/half dismissive tsk tsk and said, "Well yeah, of course, i'm a writer". He gave me my book quickly and he looked like he was gonna have to give his publishers a talking to for letting dumb kids into his tent. Well, i figured if i died that day things would be okay. But i didn't die unfortunately, so i had to relive the moment again and again. Later, i thought of what i should have said. I shoulda said, "I know you are a fucking writer, i've read all your fucking stupid comic caper novels you idiot. throw me bone, i'm 11 fucking years old!" But it was too late of course.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:05 (sixteen years ago) link

throw me A bone, obv.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:08 (sixteen years ago) link

This is such an great thread to start.

Allbungedup: awesome.

Here's mine (exerpts from an email I sent out directly after)...

David Sedaris is signing/reading at Plymouth State College in NH. I got into town way too early and walked to a bar for some drinks. Then I go back to the Arts Center and see people standing in line to have books signed. So I'm waiting and I'm wondering what the hell these people ahead of me are talking to him about. I mean, they're saying such stupid shit, like, "I named my cat David. You know, after YOU," and "So how's Hugh? You like living in France? Is the food nice?" People, you don't know him, just get him to sign your book and MOVE ON. So I finally get up there:

ME: Hi.
DS: Hi, what's your name?
ME: Amy.
DS: (writing 'To Amy' in the book, then looks at me. I smile back.) Okay, so I can say this because I'm a homosexual... but you are a total fox!
ME: (i can feel my face growing very hot) Thanks.
DS: (writing 'A fox in...') Where are you from?
ME: Vermont.
DS: Where in Vermont?
ME: Hartford.
DS: H-A-R-T-F-O-R-D?
ME: Yes.
DS: (writing 'Hartford', then signs his name) You know you're a fox, right?
ME: Aw, thanks, that's nice of you to say. I've been feeling really down lately.
DS: Oh, what, did someone just break-up w/you?
ME: No. No one. See, that's the point.
DS: (blinking at me a couple times)
ME: Er... thanks for this. (i grab my book and run, my cheeks on FIRE).

And let me tell you, that book is one of my most prized posessions.

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 13:55 (sixteen years ago) link

I think you need to post a picture so ILB can verify his claim.

MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:36 (sixteen years ago) link

ha ha ha, you got man. i'll take a pic and post it... somewhere. but dude, it all happened word-for-word. [sigh] i was so in love with him after that.

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:44 (sixteen years ago) link

Haha. I've had some really nice experiences with authors (usually along with my girlfriend), particularly Chuck Palahniuk and Neil Gaiman. I can't think of one I'm especially embarassed about, save for going to a bookseller's convention as a pretty young kid, meeting Ray Bradbury, and having him sign a COMIC BOOK ADAPTATION of some of his stories that I picked up there. He was finger lickin' good though.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 19 February 2004 14:52 (sixteen years ago) link

All my experiences have been with Canadian authors, and they've all been great.

George Elliot Clarke has thick square glasses and look (and sounds) like a computer geek in person, but he's so friendly it's ridiculous.

Sheila Heti was shy, and seemed genuinely surprised that anyone had actually read her book before the reading. She gave me this cool promo poster that was supposed to go to bookstores only.

Hal Niedzviecki was really cool and personable. I spen about a half hour showing him around campus and talking to him about the sorry state of contemporary CanLit. We shared a good laugh about Margaret Atwood being included in George Bowering's collection of cutting edge postmodern Canadian fiction.

Elizabeth Hay, who had just won the Governor General's Award (sort of a Canadian Booker Prize, but not quite) and she was so quiet and demure I thought she would break if I said more than two words to her.

Eric McCormack is a loon; I had two or three classes with him, which were all great fun.

Leon Rooke has this great, booming voice and an amazing sense of humour. We both know the editors of The New Quarterly fairly well, so we had a decent discussion, mostly about the readings (I met him at a writer's festival) and the journal.

Stephen Henighan I've only corresponded with, because I had some questions about his book and, I mean, why not? If you teach at a university and your e-mail address is public, don't expect interested parties not to use it. The discussion (about his assertion that Carol Shields' novel The Stone Diaries was "free trade fiction"--written to appeal to American audiences in order to sell more) started out fairly congenial, until I started to challenge him. I was really successful, perhaps too successful. Anytime he couldn't refute my arguments he just said "you'll understand when you're older" and then broke off the correspondence.

I corresponded with Harold Bloom the same way I corresponded w/ Henighan. Bloom was amazingly polite, responded to all my points and queries politely, and with respect, and when there was nothing left to say, the correspondence ended.

I met Sandra Sabatini at a reading; I was the last one in line to have my book signed, and she became so fascinated with my name and how I got it that we wound up talking (about me!) for almost a half hour before she left.

August (August), Thursday, 19 February 2004 15:27 (sixteen years ago) link

* Jonathan Lethem - I interviewed him and my MD batteries failed.
* Ivor Cutler - I addressed him by his christian name and he scolded me: "That's Mr Cutler to you, young man!"
* Don Paterson - I interviewed him and he clearly thought I was a complete dunderheid
* Greil Marcus - I asked him a question about dub and he reacted rather furiously
* Even the undisastrous ones (David Thomson, P Morley, Amis, etc etc) - I feel agonisingly like a fawning fan boy the whole time.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Thursday, 19 February 2004 15:37 (sixteen years ago) link

That David Sedaris story is classic.

Richard Powers was at the University of Illinois when I was there (he might still be down there, not sure) and he subbed in for a couple of my creative writing classes one year, and came to speak to a film class I was taking that dealt with artificial intelligence- talked about Galatea 2.1, and kept grinning about being a character in his own book. Completely normal, down to earth guy, friendly, etc., but obviously smarter than anyone you've ever met. I had to read one of my stories for the creative class at one point, and the thing was just horrible. I couldn't even read the story out loud for the class, it was so bad; I had a friend read it for me. And Powers was great- very generous, and somehow acknowledged the fact that the story "needed work" without being condescending or making me feel bad about it.

tl (tom), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:47 (sixteen years ago) link

I went to a book signing for Salman Rushdie's new book about a week after a local newspaper had done an article about my website. There was a picture of me in it. I'm standing in line, and Rushdie is actually talking to each person. I hear him say to one person, "Well, if he weren't crazy, he wouldn't be Van Morrison, and then we wouldn't love him so much." I'm formulating the perfect thing to say to him when, much too quickly, it's my turn.

All of a sudden, the woman in line next to me grabs my arm and says, "I just read that article about you!" I turn to her, confused, and she starts babbling on about how she knows the person who wrote the article and how I don't look much like the photo, but she could just tell it was me because I had on the same shirt, on and on and on. By the time the surprise wore off, I turned back to Rushdie only to see him handing my book back, eyebrow raised, and security grabbed my arm and led me away.

If I ever see that woman again, I will knock her out.

Jessa (Jessa), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:49 (sixteen years ago) link

I have seen a picture of The Vermont Girl, and she ain't bad at all.

SRH (Skrik), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:51 (sixteen years ago) link

Stop teasing!

MikeyG (MikeyG), Thursday, 19 February 2004 16:53 (sixteen years ago) link

"Stop teasing!"??? Try "Stop scaring!!"

SRH: Where have you seen a picture?

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:23 (sixteen years ago) link

Merely takes a quick google, ma'amn
The Vermont Girl (according to Google, heh)

Øystein H-O (Øystein H-O), Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh yes, I also met Guy Gavriel Kay once. He was giving a lecture on the tools of the fantasy writer, and I went just so I could get a quotation on literary ethics for a paper I was working on. It worked--I asked my question an he talked for almost an hour. He was very kind afterwards about my manipulating his Q&A.

August (August), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:19 (sixteen years ago) link

Embarrassing story: Umberto Eco was doing a signing at The Strand here in NYC. After he signed my book, I smiled and said "Grazzi", one of the three Italian words I know. At that, he uttered about five sentences to me in Italian. I just smiled and walked away, looking and feeling like a complete moron.

BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:32 (sixteen years ago) link

I met Xaviera Hollander. She was so nice! She signed three books for me, including an old paperback of hers. She laughed and signed that one "for old times sake". And she put the diacritical marks in my name without me having to say anything.

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:39 (sixteen years ago) link

Colin Harrison bought me lunch once, but for the amount of dinners my grandma has given him, a lunch is the least he could do.

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:40 (sixteen years ago) link

I guess the "horror" in that was when he started talking about trauma in writers' lives and my dead dad, and I was all, ugggh.

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:42 (sixteen years ago) link

Okay... I guess I'm indirectly responsible for starting this thread in another thread (... I had the bad Coetzee story ... ) but apparently I've got a way of antagonizing self-serious authors. For one, I was 18 at a David Sedaris signing and asked him to write something nice in the cover of my book since it was a gift to a high-school teacher. He wrote "I NO LONGER GET ERECTIONS!!!!" inside. I didn't check it and presented it to the teacher. Who found it funny, thankfully. But still


In college I had a professor whom we'll call http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1877946907/qid=1077228659//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/002-8330373-9496835?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 and said-professor and I clashed like oil and faeces. I wrote an exceedingly strange sex-scene in one novella and he told the class that I wrote with an informed authority on the subject. Then he turned to me, laughed, and said "It's amazing how long good sex will keep a bad relationship alive."

Atila the Honeybun (Atila the Honeybun), Thursday, 19 February 2004 22:16 (sixteen years ago) link

-- Atila the Honeybun

Apologies for the incorrect attribution. I'll be more careful in future.8)

David Joyner (David Joyner), Thursday, 19 February 2004 22:27 (sixteen years ago) link

S: Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, John Banville, Elmore Leonard, Laura Hillenbrand, Richard Powers, Susan Orlean

D: Leonard Garment, James Ellroy, STEPHEN HUNTER

mookieproof (mookieproof), Friday, 20 February 2004 04:26 (sixteen years ago) link

I want to know why Greil was rather furious.

tom west (thomp), Friday, 20 February 2004 04:43 (sixteen years ago) link

What's Letham like, Nipper? I have a friend who shared a bus ride with him years ago and found him brilliant company , and I have a friend who attended a reading and found him equally nice, but quite eccentric. I've actually never read an interview that seems to capture him, so I'd be curious to hear your reaction.

The Second Drummer Drowned (Atila the Honeybun), Friday, 20 February 2004 05:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Greil Marcus - I asked him a question about dub and he reacted rather furiously

haha, please elaborate Jerry!

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 20 February 2004 06:35 (sixteen years ago) link

re: Marcus. I met him at a reading he gave at Elliot Bay Books in 1996? in Seattle and asked him a question which basically reprises Ian Penman's comments, namely why was he able to write about dub through the lens of the Clash, but not write about Augustus Pablo himself. And I guess he was touchy about the point because he completely over-reacted and got quite cross with me. I think he thought I was attacking him and accusing him of being the crit equivalent of a singersongwriter. (And I was quite hurt he thought so because I dearly love GM's 'Mystery Train' and Basement Tapes books).

re: Lethem - he seemed to be a very charming and interesting guy. He didn't seem any more eccentric than your standard ageing indie kid (we talked a lot about the Go Betweens), but who knows?!

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Friday, 20 February 2004 11:12 (sixteen years ago) link

I met John McGahern once. He was signing some books for Oxfam for me (thus doubling their value on the collectors' market). My Dad was with me, and I couldn't think of anything to say to Ireland's Greatest Living Novelist, so I sat in awed silence in this coffee shop in Leitrim (in Mohill, next to the undertaker's). JohnMcGahern asked Dad what he did for a living, and he said he worked for Aer Lingus and McGahern said "I suppose that would be quite a well paid job?"

It was funny to see that my hero was, really, a stereotypical culchie at heart.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:31 (sixteen years ago) link

Here's your proof.

And SRH found the picture of me over at Yankee Pot Roast. I'm not telling where because I want you to look around the site; it's really funny.

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:53 (sixteen years ago) link

Why should Marcus care about anyone's view on his view on dub? Dub is dull. Next time you run into Marcus, or indeed anyone else, you can quote me on that and add that it's the view of one who thinks August Pablo, whoever he is, is a dullard.

And why should he resent being compared to a singer-songwriter? Perhaps he would be more interesting if he were one of those.

The bloody old sausage.

David Thomson failed to give me total satisfaction on the need for more puritanical attitudes in contemporary American parenting.

But he did say he was... "moved".

the bellefox, Friday, 20 February 2004 16:16 (sixteen years ago) link

Vermont Girl, you are prolific. I won't comment on your appearance as my girlfriend writes on these boards and she'll string me up by my knackers.

MikeyG (MikeyG), Friday, 20 February 2004 16:31 (sixteen years ago) link

David Sedaris was right.

Not MikeyG, Friday, 20 February 2004 16:41 (sixteen years ago) link

Actually, I think Thomson may have said "It touches me to hear you say that".

Obviously I was pointing a gun at him and making him sign all the books on my shelves at the time.

the flickfox, Friday, 20 February 2004 19:21 (sixteen years ago) link

I once had lunch with Ann Rule. Also, Orson Scott Card was once my friend. I wrote him a poem: Hey Nonny Hi Nonny
Wierd Science Fantasy
Hasn't the wherewith to buy
This canard.

Try us again next year
If we're not bankrupt
For remuneration, dear
Orson Scott Card.

pepektheassassin (pepektheassassin), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 00:22 (sixteen years ago) link

I mean Weird. Isn't that the old i before e thing? Or was that e before i? Is this horrible enough?

pepektheassassin (pepektheassassin), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 00:26 (sixteen years ago) link

Ha ha, Aerlingus is my favorite company name in the entire world...

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 02:50 (sixteen years ago) link

Me (in crowded line at book festival at my old college): Are you *the poet* Scott Cairns?
Scott Cairns: Yeah, that's me.
Me: I love your poetry.
Scott Cairns: Well, you're the kind of guy I like to meet.
Me: Uh, why's that?
Scott Cairns: The kind of guy that like my poetry.
[I nod dumbly, grinning like a lobotomized patient on methadone.)
Later I helped a friend interview him, though, and it was all good. He didn't recognize me. Yyyyesss!

Phil Christman, Thursday, 26 February 2004 18:36 (sixteen years ago) link

chuck palahniuk completely flattered me at a reading of his a while ago by telling me that i am a modern day dorothy parker.

most authors i get rather shy about talking to. Eugenides was a bit abrupt when i met him. sharon olds and zadie smith i couldn't talk to.

eleni (eleni), Friday, 27 February 2004 18:54 (sixteen years ago) link

Chuck Palahniuk was completely cool when my girlfriend and I met him and talked to us for awhile, but she had the in of having had a tumor that she named Marla, so he was pretty much obligated.

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 27 February 2004 18:57 (sixteen years ago) link

"re: Marcus. I met him at a reading he gave at Elliot Bay Books in 1996? in Seattle and asked him a question which basically reprises Ian Penman's comments, namely why was he able to write about dub through the lens of the Clash, but not write about Augustus Pablo himself. "

He may have been cross with you because he was into dub very early -- listing "Garvey's Ghost" as one of his ten favorite records of the 70's, for example. And being a big supporter of Burning Spear and, yes, Augustus Pablo, as well. The first place I heard of "King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown" was a Greil Marcus mention in the early 80's.

Of, course, critics tend to be crotchety bastards, so there's that, too.

Not That Chuck, Friday, 27 February 2004 19:02 (sixteen years ago) link

I got a book signed by Steve Jackson and Ian "Fighting Fantasy" Livingstone and they tried to chat up my mum.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Saturday, 28 February 2004 19:42 (sixteen years ago) link

Not me, but a good friend of mine interviewed Amis (Martin) at his home, and while they were talking, his then-young child started playing with a large, sharp cutlass Amis had mounted on the wall. The child was apparently behind the two of them, out of Amis's sight, so my friend warned him -- at which point Amis replied, "Well I suppose you know how to raise a fucking child, then?", and carried on ignoring his son.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Saturday, 28 February 2004 20:05 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Two years too late, but I love this name-dropping thread! May I drop too?

Most embarrassing meeting of an author: I went to an event with Zadie Smith and JSFoer at Housing Works, and Salman Rushdie was the moderator/introducer. The two youngins were signing books afterwards, and Mr. Rushdie was sitting in the middle of them, sipping a Corona out of a bottle. I found myself standing in front of him, and embarrassingly asked him to sign my journal. I think I insulted Zadie as well by asking if her success at such a young age has aged her at all.

Gorgeous amazing author whom anyone would love more after meeting him in person: David Mitchell (*melt*)

Author with whom I think I accidentally flirted: Victor Erofeyev (it's hard to eat the cherry out of your drink without looking like a flirt, no matter who's standing in front of you)

Brief encounters with authors in elevators and revolving doors: John Updike (who smells like my grandfather), Norman Mailer

Extremely nice authors I've had the pleasure of meeting: Jonathan Lethem, Judy Blume, Arthur Phillips

My favorite moment, though, has got to be seeing Sherman Alexie make a girl cry. And he was completely right to do so.

zan, Friday, 10 February 2006 18:21 (fourteen years ago) link

david thomson bought me lunch!

s1ocki (slutsky), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:29 (fourteen years ago) link

Did you order mollejas, s1ocki?

Redd Harvest (Ken L), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:50 (fourteen years ago) link

we had smoked-meat sandwiches!

the 2nd time i met him he was also really nice. we chatted for a while & i gave him my dvd & he promised to watch my movie and get back to me!!

(he didn't but i forgive him)

s1ocki (slutsky), Friday, 10 February 2006 20:53 (fourteen years ago) link

In 1990, when I was 15, I ended up alone in an auditorium with Allen Ginsburg after a reading and he began telling me that I was "beautiful" and asking me what I was doing later. I told him my mother was waiting for me in the car outside.

cracktivity1 (cracktivity1), Saturday, 11 February 2006 07:37 (fourteen years ago) link

i want to see vermont girl's photo. someone please post a direct link.

Fred (Fred), Tuesday, 14 February 2006 01:21 (fourteen years ago) link

I have never met any top authors. This strikes me as wrong.

There is an author who sometimes stands just inside Ottokars and asks me if I ever read crime fiction. I always say no and scurry away, but next time I will say yes and see what happens. I suppose he will try to flog me his book.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller 68), Tuesday, 14 February 2006 10:57 (fourteen years ago) link

I played a show in Edinburgh a few years ago - afterwards, an older fellow came up to shake my hand. I couldn't understand a word he was saying so I launched into default meet-n-greet mode:
"Well, thanks so much! I'm Thomas, what's your name?"
"No no, Eirweeon"
"Close close, Irvine"
"Oh, like the city in California!"
[excitedly] "Yeah, yeah!"
"Haha, you're not Irvine Walsh, are you?"
"Well, actually, yeah"
"Oh, the fuck you are, get outta here with that"
[produces driver's license excitedly]
"Wha...wha...holy shit, good to meet you, thanks for coming, let me buy you a beer"

Thomas Tallis (Tommy), Thursday, 16 February 2006 22:45 (fourteen years ago) link

I suspect that Ginsberg knew what he was talking about. Also you were a fool, that was a shot at making the daisy chain! You'd be sex-partner-connected to Walt Whitman then.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 16 February 2006 22:51 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm also still curious if Vermont Girl is hot. I wonder why?

Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Friday, 17 February 2006 01:21 (fourteen years ago) link

I went to a reading by Anne Fadiman and was highly disappointed. Today I missed a reading by Jamaica Kincaid. I should have gone to it.

youn, Friday, 17 February 2006 02:08 (fourteen years ago) link

I was walking down the street yesterday and William Gibson was with a female companion eating Chinese food inside a restaurant beside me. I see him around town all the time. But I don't really like his books all that much, so I wouldn't have much to say if we talked.

Freud Junior (Freud Junior), Friday, 17 February 2006 04:34 (fourteen years ago) link

John Hodgman was pretty great last night, but I didn't want to buy the book, nor did I want to say hi to him. There is, however, something of the hott about him. He would make a great ex.

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 17 February 2006 08:15 (fourteen years ago) link

If she called herself Vermont Matron, you'd be less keen I presume.

Aimless (Aimless), Friday, 17 February 2006 17:15 (fourteen years ago) link

Extremely nice authors I've had the pleasure of meeting: Jonathan Lethem, Judy Blume, Arthur Phillips

Judy Blume lives here, on Martha's Vineyard, and I know a couple of people who've worked for her as landscapers and house-cleaners. She's horrid. Absolutely loathsome to work for. I've seen her do her personable-writer schtick for the public, too. A brilliant performance, apparently.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Saturday, 18 February 2006 02:36 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm going to see Kenneth Goldsmith read this weekend in Chicago, and I realized recently that after I see him read, I will have -- I think! -- met or seen read every living author that I care deeply about. Except those that make comics. I have met none of them.

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 21 February 2006 17:13 (fourteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Not a meeting as such, but on the theme of wishing you hadn't learned more about an author ... I was so disappointed to read this interview with Sebastian Faulks in last week's Sunday Times. I've only read On Green Dolphin Street of his and knew nothing about him (except that he never gets feted like McEwan, Barnes, and all them) but I enjoyed it very much, largely because it dodged all the things that are wrong with every other Great British Author - exercises in style, writing about each other, the sort of ignorant clever-cleverness that doesn't actually produce anything new or interesting to say. Basically, I liked Faulks because he didn't seem to care about that, he just seemed interested in people. But now I learn he appears to attend the same dinner parties and to have the same self-absorbed, vacuous thoughts as all the others. [i]"...You can’t solemnly say — as Philip Roth might say, ‘I’m going to write about a family of glovers in Newark’ — ‘I’m going to write about a family who make luggage in Leicester.’ People would just laugh.” Get lost. And the pictures are horrible too.

On a more positive note, I met David Simon last night and he was very impressive indeed. Confident and engaging in conversation; has really thought about things and so has interesting stuff to say (and doesn't stray from it into nonsense); and then took loads of time at the end to chat with hundreds of people.

Ismael Klata, Sunday, 30 August 2009 21:39 (eleven years ago) link

I've relayed this elsewhere, but...

Back when I worked in a bookshop, I got Alasdair Gray's agent to get him to come in (as he was passing through) and sign my copy of the Anthology of Prefaces, which had just come out and which I had brought in first edition - very handsome it is too.

Anyway, when he came in, it was rather busy and I was rushing around a bit, eventually managed to duck out from behind my desk and speak to him.

'Hello young man.' (or whatever)
'Er, yep, hi.'
'So, I hear your a fan of my work.' (as indeed I was then, and I'm sure I would be now if I ever read any, although with slight reservations about a certain parsimony about his prose - a touch of the Scottish schoolmaster perhaps)
'Yes, yes I am.'
'What is it you like about it?'
'Er,' I said. 'Er.'

Then I stared for a bit, sweating, mind revolving like a dead planet.

'Would you like me to sign your book.'
'Yes,' I said, rather gauchely handing it over, like an awkward rube.

And he did. And then he left. Presumably to relay the contents of our gay repartee to his Caledonian confreres. Me and my f'ing peasant mind.

And just to second what IK said - David Simon, thoughtful and interesting person, who takes care about what he says without being exclusively pedantic or knowing. Just came across really well.

GamalielRatsey, Sunday, 30 August 2009 22:23 (eleven years ago) link

While drunk at a publisher thing (I was working in a bookshop and had managed to get an invitation), I charged up to David Malkouf, full of bravado and sure I was going to be witty and have a chat, but realised I had nothing to say.

Me: * Um *
Malouf: Er. Hello?
Me: (blathering) Iloveyourbooks!
Malouf: Oh, thank God. I thought you were security, come to chuck me out.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Sunday, 30 August 2009 23:52 (eleven years ago) link

ALSO: J M Coetzee lives about 5 minutes walk away from me, and when I walk past his house with his dog, I sometimes see a Nobel-winner's underpants flying in the breeze (from a clothesline, not the man himself). At a neighbourhood gathering, I offered him some vegetarian food my wife had made (given that she and I are both pro-animal-right vegetarians, i thought this might give me an in to make intelligent conversation with him, rather than drooling fanboy stupidity), but it was full of coconut, and he's allergic to coconut, so instead I almost killed him.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Tuesday, 1 September 2009 23:50 (eleven years ago) link

that's pretty nice of you to walk his dog

where we turn sweet dreams into remarkable realities (just1n3), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 02:29 (eleven years ago) link

Long ago, when I was 21, I asked Lorrie Moore to dance with me at a zydeco show, but she rebuffed me.

I met Coetzee and Derek Walcott around the same time, and they're like the two severest men on Earth.

Squash weather (Eazy), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 04:58 (eleven years ago) link

Er, my dog, I meant. I can't type.

When two tribes go to war, he always gets picked last (James Morrison), Wednesday, 2 September 2009 07:35 (eleven years ago) link

ismael klata obviously this is the choice bit of that interview

Faulks turned to the Koran for his research, and was appalled: “It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.

“There is also the barrenness of the message. I mean, there are some bits about diet, you know, the equivalent of the Old Testament, which is also crazy. If you look again at those books of the law, Leviticus or Deuteronomy, there’s a lot about who you are allowed to sleep with, and if a man had lost his testicles he wouldn’t enter into the presence of God, that is just terrible. But the great thing about the Old Testament is that it does have these incredible stories. Of the 100 greatest stories ever told, 99 are probably in the Old Testament and the other is in Homer.

“With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says ‘the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.’ That’s basically the message of the book.”

I ask if he had talked to many British Muslims before beginning to write. “I didn’t, actually, no. I read some books and I’ve got a few Muslim friends, but I thought I’d get it better from books and from reading the source.”

thomp, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 08:42 (eleven years ago) link

That's what I meant by the vacuity of the Great British Authors, I suppose - that the guy's identified an important subject and gone to considerable trouble to research it, and has come up with nothing new or insightful to say about it. I'm reading a pop book about the old testament just now which looks at exactly the same points, except that the author displays some curiosity as to why the book might be like that - and consequently displays a thousand times more insight, understanding and warmth than any of these guys could ever come up with. Yet who are considered the important thinkers, and who's the hack?

Ismael Klata, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 09:46 (eleven years ago) link

i think someone needs to assemble for the sake of british authors a list of other things that young british muslims do that aren't "debate whether to become terrorists"

thomp, Thursday, 3 September 2009 05:35 (eleven years ago) link

ten years pass...

security grabbed my arm and led me away.

If I ever see that woman again, I will knock her out.

― Jessa (Jessa), Thursday, February 19, 2004 4:49 PM (sixteen years ago)

I don't get why security taken you away.

Great thread. More please.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Friday, 31 July 2020 01:18 (five months ago) link

Westlake seems like the worst in the thread.

Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 1 August 2020 01:01 (five months ago) link

i can't think of many authors i've met -- we have a big local book festival here so i've gone to listen to quite a few authors read, but haven't really had any profound interactions with anyone. i did get to chat with rick perlstein for a few minutes as he signed my copy of nixonland, which was pretty cool. i also met george saunders very briefly after he did a reading here. very nice guy. so, no horror stories!

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 1 August 2020 03:02 (five months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Embarrassing story: Umberto Eco was doing a signing at The Strand here in NYC. After he signed my book, I smiled and said "Grazzi", one of the three Italian words I know. At that, he uttered about five sentences to me in Italian. I just smiled and walked away, looking and feeling like a complete moron.


lukas, Tuesday, 18 August 2020 23:56 (five months ago) link

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