I’m no starfucker. I’m an enthusiastic fan. I believe in expressing admiration for work I love. A Golden Rule thing, in my book. It’s the treatment I would want, if I had more of a freaking audience. Which I’m working on, believe you me.
Last week I came this close to getting a tattoo of the cover of Don DeLillo’s White Noise on my right upper, outer thigh.* That’s a fan.
I never met DeLillo. God help him if I do. I’ll probably kiss his Rockports and wet my jeans. One of my twins almost got DeLillo as a middle name. (Her first name, Jordan, after Jordan Baker, the corrupt female golfer in Gatsby, honors my West Egg heritage.) I could have named her Zelda, after Mrs. F.S.F., but (a) Zelda, God bless her, was a dilettante with a really bad end and (b) Peter Buck named his twins Zoe and Zelda. I love old REM, sure, but matching Buck’s kids’ names is too stalker-y, even for me.
I think being a fan involves gratitude. If you’ve done something really super good which has touched me, I will thank you in person. And if you’re giving a reading and I own your book or books, I will haul the stack, in a box, if necessary, for you to sign them. And no, I won’t sell them on eBay, so don’t give me that look.
T. C. Boyle signed 15 books. I love him. He was a prick. I thanked him anyway.
Erica Jong and I yakked about a mutual family friend, at whose home my mother mistook Erica’s husband, a lawyer named Ken Burrows, for the guy who wrote Naked Lunch.
A schnockered Robert Stone didn’t say much. I was dazzled. I thanked him for Marge Converse and for Children of Light.
Sydney Taylor, the author of All of a Kind Family, shook my nine-year-old hand. The first time I met someone whose name was on a book! I remember the thrill as well as the scratchiness of my Danskin elastic-waisted pants. Thank you, Great Neck Library.
I called Phil Collins Peter Gabriel by mistake. Since I was praising old Genesis, this was a problem.
Tim Robbins seemed to appreciate my cleavage as much as my kvelling over his brilliant Bob Roberts. If I’d known you and Susan were splitsville, I’d have maintained that eye contact. Thank you, Tim!
And Patrick Smith. I’m a big Patrick fan. Patrick flies commercial jetliners. He also writes like a dream. His weekly column on Salon.com is a Friday treat. “Ask the Pilot,” it’s called. He published a book with that title, too (Riverhead, 2004). If you remotely fear flying, I highly recommend reading him.
I’m a sucker for pilots, yes. And for smart, witty, wordy, quirky dudes. And people who aren’t afraid to admit they love Husker Du. Patrick isn’t former military. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Living in San Diego, I’ve chatted up (and even rented apartments to) my share of Navy and Marine jet jocks. Patrick is, well, different. Self deprecating, for starters. I know this from my occasional email correspondence with him. I’ve asked Patrick quite a few questions. He also graciously agreed to help me with technical issues for my new novel. My plane-crash novel, based on Alaska Airlines Flight 261. I have jackscrew questions to ask him.
My favorite Patrick piece is a vignette of a near miss over Nantucket circa ’86, The Cure’s “Love Cats” as silent soundtrack. As he put it, “Ah, the days of seducing pretty girls with the aphrodisiac of aviation. Not to mention near death by midair collision.” It’s a damn fine piece of writing. Here is is.
I haven’t met Patrick. I have thanked him, though. And assured him I’m no stalker. And offered him a nice drink or dinner or anything he’d like, in the unlikely event he lands in San Diego. Speaking of which, I wonder if he’s made the challenging approach into San Diego’s Lindbergh Field. “Challenging” is a euphemism for “disaster-waiting-to-happen,” according to pilots I know. I must ask Patrick.
*Thrift prevailed — the talented Sierra Colt ain’t cheap.