“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” – Erasmus
If you could meet any writer living or dead, who would you choose? A cross section of today’s famed writers were asked this question. Many of the interviewed chose dead writers, Twain, Austin, Kerouac, etc. Most writers cited Shakespeare, dead for over 400 years.
If you could converse with Will, I’d bet most writers would ask, “How did your stories stand the test of time?” Will’s likely reply, “Longer attention spans without internet.”
I’d have questions for Will too. “What was your childhood like to be able to write Hamlet?”
Non-writers loved to meet the creators of their favorite books at signings and readings. Why were writers a different lot? If word leaked out on the author’s grapevine, (if there was such a thing), and J. K. Rowling arrived at my door, would I have the proper tea and biscuits to offer? Would Barbara Kingsolver be okay with tea and biscuits, and what could we discuss?
If Edgar Allen Poe came rapping, rapping at my door, I’d know that he led a life of poverty and misery because he tried to earn a living solely from writing. It’d be easy to commiserate with Edgar. Though not poverty stricken because of a day job, we could hash out the pros and cons of my miserable time suck and his refusal to sellout. We’d need nothing more.
Conversation with Charles Dickens might also flow easily. “Charles, recall all the social issues that concerned you back in the day? We replaced work houses with an unrealistic minimum wage. The wage is similar to a turning upside down, and emptying of pockets to find a crust of bread, but without the communal living conditions.”
Rachael Carson, marine biologist, conservationist, and acclaimed nature writer was a small town Pennsylvania gal like me. Though posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I viewed Rachael as coffee buddy material. I saw us chatting, “Thanks to Silent Spring and the DDT ban, we’ve saved eagles and pelicans. Unfortunately, the planet’s entire ecosystem is on a trajectory towards Armageddon. I must apologize”
Connecting with Margaret Atwood, writer and environmental activist, didn’t give me the same coffee buddy feel as Rachel. Margaret, considered a literary genius, won many notable prizes and held honorary degrees from twenty prestigious universities. I thanked God for spell check. The thought of meeting with Margaret made me want to spew coffee.
Likewise, Neil Gaimen’s and Stephen King’s multi-talents and awards intimidated me. Plus, Stephen scared the crap out of me with that damned clown.
It was possible that Dave Barry and I might connect on some level. I’m not making up some of the things I write about. Fellow Funny Times writers? Maybe, we saw humor in the everyday and enjoyed a laugh. George R. R. Martin? Nah, he’s probably had enough of, when are you set to finish A Song of Fire and Ice?
Imagine the fright of David Sedaris showing up at the door unannounced. What would he tell others about me? “I decided to go ahead with a meet and greet at an obscure writer’s home. I leaned over to pet her dog as a good will gesture, since I don’t like dogs, but it was only a pile of the dog’s hair. She was in the other room so she didn’t sniff my crouch. The dog, I mean.”
David might even be compelled to clean my house. Oh, the embarrassment I’d experience watching a favorite author vacuuming the area rug.
The only way I foresaw a successful meeting with David would be if Marie Kondo arrived a day earlier. The famed author of the KonMari method of tidying and organizing expert might demonstrate the principles of her books as we talked. Only then would I be less neurotic about the house and able to enjoy a few questions with David over coffee.
“And why not death rather than living torment?” Wrote Shakespeare.
A writer meeting a living writer equaled judgment and inferiority complexes. Safety was in the dead. Dead writers wouldn’t show up on your doorstep. If Edgar appeared at the door, it wouldn’t be impolite to duck behind the curtains, ignore the rapping, or to call in an exorcist.