Have you ever had the chance to thank a favorite artist—or someone whose book or music or movies have brought you a lot of happiness or illumination? I swear, it’s got to be one of the best feelings in the world.
I was a lucky, lucky girl Friday night. I got the chance to give a personal thanks to writer Nick Hornby. His collections of writings on his reading life are some of my favorite books around.
He was reading at the downtown Seattle library Friday night and it took a buddy system with my pal Liz to get my ass down there, and thank god for the buddy system. As it turns out, the auditorium reading room was packed to the rafters. Hornby read from his latest novel, “Juliet, Naked” – and then answered questions and we got to spend time with a very funny, decent guy.
A quick summation: He describes himself as being a writer who embraces optimism and joked that this may be why he has no writer friends in his homeland of England.
He also made a point that so much of what is considered great art is dark and tragic and ends on a note of despair and hopelessness. For him, having a laugh through a story, even if it's a sad story, is imperative and thank god for that. I think he used the word "redemption" to describe the common theme that runs through his novels.
But what I love -- his essays. I heard he was coming to town just as I was re-reading his collections of essays from his former Believer column "Stuff I've Been Reading." (The books are: "The Polysyllabic Spree"; "Housekeeping vs. the Dirt"; and the newly discovered "Shakespeare Wrote for Money".) And I will try to make this my last fan-posting about him for a while.
Totally loooove this stuff. These are the types of books that make you develop your own personal, intimate, adoring relationship with an author and wish you could call him up at 2am and blurt out, “I so agree why hans’t anyone ever admitted to this!” Because the two of you think so alike there must be an instant friendship created. Instead I put passages on my blog or email them to people or reread them a thousand times and commit them to memory so I can giggle over them when I need a laugh. Of course they always pop up when I'm listening to someone speak earnestly about a very serious, personal conversation and I have to manually hold the corners of my mouth down.
So, after the reading I bought a couple of books and really wanted to stand in line just to be in person with him and say “Thanks. You have made me laugh and think in new ways. And that matters, so thanks.” But the line was massive and I hate waiting in lines so my pal Liz and I decided to bolt and here’s what we got for our brilliant anti-Communist line-waiting ways:
We ran smack into the author.
Right outside the library, away from the hundreds of people standing in line waiting to meet him, was Nick Hornby and one other fellow, having a smoke. I couldn’t believe it. So I approached him and like any fool of a fan thanked him for coming and told him I bought the "Shakespeare" book and yes, I was a total cliche, telling him how much I loved these essays and he assured me he was returning to his Believe column again sometime next year and I gave a little cheerleading jump and he gave me a shy but seemingly delighted smile (or did I imagine it; I swear, I think I saw the beginnings of a crush) – and off we went.
I left stunned at our good fortune and also laughing a bit at the image of the crowd waiting for Hornby and how just yards away, right behind their backs, literally, was the object of their affection standing alone.
But what struck me most was how elated I felt. Elated and excited and deeply fulfilled at being able to simply say thank you to a writer who made me laugh and think and want to read more. Who cares if I’m one of a million saying thank you. It still matters. It matters to me, as an art-appreciator and a writer; it matters to my humanness and I think it matters to Art and humanity. I think it's important that we keep thanking the artists who add meaning and explanation to our lives and to what it means to be human in a crazy world. It's important to be a fan!
But the simple stuff is always what matters the most, anyway.
Check out the Hornby bibliography. Treat yourself.