oh, and discussion: i mean, between donna tartt and neil gaiman, i’ve actually gotten to see and meet some of my absolute favorite (and i mean favorite) authors, and only very recently. i have to say that the experience is unlike anything else. a good writer bares a part of themself that lies deep inside while writing a book. woven into the fiction is the absolute truth about the person writing it. so only getting a writer’s work allows you to get to know them on a level that’s indescribable, and quite private, while having no direct interaction whatsoever. loving the work and, in extension, that part of the author, allows for a very substantial experience when seeing and/or meeting them in real life. the connection you’ve formed with their words becomes solidified in the physical meeting. and it’s most likely that the soul of the literature corresponds with that of the author; if you resonate with the first, then of course you’ll love the second as well. that combined with the pure gratification and appreciation you feel for the writer for writing this book that you’ve fallen in love with – how can you not have stars in your eyes?
i realized i still haven’t written about when i “stumbled upon” neil gaiman.
tuesday was the day of the “international author scene” interview with mr. gaiman. i hadn’t been able to score tickets because everyone else was apparently just a bit more eager than i, but i did manage to see it on a screen. kind of. they did a live screening in the movie theatre, for the fans who still wanted to see it really badly. at first the stream was high def but lagged every five seconds, and then it was kind-of-but-not-fully low def with no lag. i enjoyed it nevertheless, but really wished i was there seeing it live. you know that “oh so unfair i want to be there more than anything” feeling you get when you’re witnessing something but not really participating in it.
anyways, gaiman was lovely.
so after the interview, kiki (who’d been with me all along) and i roamed around in the building, looking for the signing. the woman (girl?) who’d told us about the screening said that we’d get to go even though we only had tickets to the screening, which was why i’d been so keen. i mean that’s a sweet deal. turns out, there wouldn’t be a signing. i was pretty bummed. however, i’d heard that he was doing a signing at the science fiction book store the next day, so i figured i’d give that a shot. but. to get your book signed at 4 pm, you had to go to the store at 10 am to get a ticket for the line. so i was like oh god how am i going to manage that, but fine okay i’ll try.
okay parallel plotline: the same day as the interview, i’d gotten an email from swedish television (the network, not the concept as a whole), inviting me to the recording of the final episode of this great tv programme about literature. it was to happen the next day, and i was welcome to bring friends. i’d signed myself up to be an audience member a couple of months ago, but school had come in the way. i guess i was still on the mailing list. anyways, it sounded really fun so i thought why not. i wrote in my class group on fb, asking if anybody felt tempted. and sure enough, i’d be accompanied by three classmates.
i mean it seems really obvious now that it has all played out, but i was completely clueless at the time.
when my alarm went off at 8 am, after having gotten about three hours of sleep, it was pretty obvious that i was not going to get that ticket to the signing. i was meant to be going to a morrissey sing-along with some people from my class later that night (referenced in a previous post), and just no i needed the fuel. so i figured i’d just show up at 4 pm, after the recording, and wish for the best. i turned my head to the ceiling and said: “please god let it all work out. i love you regardless, but it’d be really neat.” and then i went back to sleep.
some hours later, at 1:30 pm, i was standing in line with my classmates and the rest of the audience members. breathless and weak-legged from having stressed my way to the subway, and then to the bus, and then to the television studio; i was starting to get excited. that familiar bubbly sensation was starting to rise in me. a couple of minutes later, we were escorted into the studio and wow this was what it looked like in real life. it was lighter and less intense than it looked on tv. it kind of reminded me of a starry sky; midnight blue background and spots of artificial light scattered everywhere. now i was really excited.
so we sat down, and i started thinking about who the guests might be. i remember thinking that it’d be fun if i knew who at least one of them was, but that it wouldn’t matter as long as they were nice to listen to. at least i’d get to see the host, who was a phenomenon in and of herself. she’d come to be one of those people, you know, who you have a picture of in your head, thinking wow. more about that later. so a lady came out, some kind of executive producer i think, and started to explain what was happening. she told us about when to clap and not, and what was happening in the episode. she told us that it’d be an extra special episode, and that the guests were this pretty major swedish children’s book author (at which i thought oh that’s nice) and also neil gaiman.
the gasps echoed through the audience. i. freaked. out. silently but still very much outwardly. what are the odds what are the odds this is the best day of my life what are the odds, is pretty much what my head sounded like.
so then the host came out, and i had another gasp-moment, but not as big (sorry but i mean come on it was post bomb-drop). she’s one of those people who you can tell has had a lot of time to just grow into themselves. big curly auburn hair, sides pinned back. thin, but naturally so. cream and black colored form-fitted dress that flares out at the waist, matching shrug. burgundy colored lipstick. really high black wedge ankle boots. you know the kind of people who wear an outfit that makes you go not a single other person on this earth could pull this off except them? yeah, one of those. (i mean she has an ampersand tattooed on her arm – love her.) she was really nice and graceful and relaxed. not as intense as on television, and still a total pro. such a cool woman.
art by daria hlazatova
when the recording started, there were some segments and a really charming interview with the first author. it was lovely to watch, but my head was still reeling from the notion that neil gaiman was in the building and about to walk out. and then, during a break in recording, he was just standing there to the left of us. like, within an arm’s reach. just like, right there. i remember thinking jesus, warn a girl you can’t just walk out like its nothing. dressed in all black; blazer, slacks and a sweater. relaxed posture, hands held behind back. the iconic, stormy hair. i tried to not stare like a freak while the tv people explained how it would all go down. i am certain i failed but whatever i was awestruck okay?
and then the interview. i think that we were all enchanted. earlier today, i saw that the host tweeted that you could probably see the exact moment when she fell in love with him, and to that i say – my sentiments exactly. eloquent, and relaxed, and kind, and smart. witty, soft-spoken, puts the backs of his hands against each other while explaining something, and his british isn’t pronounced but present nevertheless. he spoke about life, and his wife, and about how he lived as much in books as he did anywhere else and i just sighed wistfully.
by the time the interview was over, i was traversing on periwinkle clouds. then i became very determined to get my sandman (preludes & nocturnes, of course) signed, because wow this was the chance i didn’t know i’d been waiting for. so i went to the executive producer lady and asked if there was a chance, she said something like i’m not sure he might come out the back but you can’t go backstage. so then i scurried off in a panicky flurry thinking okay the back the back wait what back? after running around i walked outside the studio, to see him standing there, taking a picture with a very happy-looking young man. then neil gaiman started walking toward the exit.
without thinking, i went up to him and said so sorry, do you think you have time for one more signing? and then neil gaiman, so soft-spoken and nice, said of course. by this point i was shaking and digging around in my backpack, muttering where is it where is it and then oh there it is! he asked how i spell my name and i spelled it out all nervously and then added that it was quite unusual (yes hi my name is captain obvious, and you?). and then he said very pretty. neil gaiman said that my name was very pretty. i just thought !! and then ranted on about oh thank you so much this is a favorite of mine it means so much. and he just smiled and looked all soft-spoken and witty and wise and sweet and then he added a “love” to the signature. neil gaiman sent me his love. !!. i accepted the book, still shaking because come on what is this even. and then he went on and i just proceeded to freak out outside the tv studio for about five minutes before continuing with my day.
conclusion: these things just don’t happen. my day/year/life is made. i’m a little bit in love with neil gaiman.
donna tartt. small stature. impeccably fitted black suit, white shirt, red tie. patent oxfords. silky, perfectly straight hair – parted in the middle, cutting her chin. relaxed posture, spread out in her chair. confident. straight forward. enunciates, with clear t’s. doesn’t laugh if it isn’t funny. doesn’t give stupid answers to stupid questions. private. not harsh, despite probable interpretation of description. sometimes has to start a sentence over several times to find the right wording. genuine. dignified. sharp. very, very cool.
i don’t think i’ve ever seen a person resonate with the “me”, that i’m aspiring to let myself be, to the extent that she did. it’s strange, because she meant so much to me already – as the author of a book that changed me. and now we have the author herself. regardless of the sometimes questionable interviewer, she was perfect. inspiring.
the paper trembled with the shake of my hand as i prepared to have my book signed. opened to the right page, post-it with the spelling of my name ready. i stood in line, constantly looking past the other people in front of me to see her interactions with them. should i tell her how much the secret history means to me? how it took me to a world that was here and yet not here at all, and how that’s when i learned what real magic was? what writing could do? should i tell her that the first thing i wrote, that strangers could read and knew i wrote, was about her book? that it basically was me trying to get the whole world to read it, even though i knew it was only read by about a hundred people? should i tell her all that?
no, i thought. i don’t think she’s that kind of person. everyone’s just saying thank you and running away. she’s having to say “bye!” to countless backs, i think she already left minutes ago, really. and then it was my turn. and i shook, and said hi!, voice softer and an octave higher than dignified. she smiled a little and asked me how i was. i don’t think she ever smiles with even the slightest hint of a lie. the blood rushed through my ears and i think that i made sounds that equal me replying. she saw the post-it and asked: “is this your real name?” i said yes, and she asked how it’s pronounced. i told her, and as she was signing, she nodded her head and repeated it almost perfectly. r rolled and all.
a thought came into existence and decided to make an instant appearance. i just have to say that you’re my absolute favorite writer. in that moment, it was the total truth. i could hear it in my own voice, as if it was separate from me. she looked up into my eyes, and said thank you so much. as if it was the most natural thing in the world, we reached out at the same time and shook hands. warm. firm, but not harsh. earnest. thank you so much for signing, it really means a lot. thank you for coming, she replied. have a nice evening, i said and almost turned to leave. she spoke again. thank you. take care. time paused for just a nanosecond. you too!, i said, voice turning soft and an octave above dignified once more. then i sped off, thinking silent shouts to myself.
wow. so, so cool.
(ps. happy birthday, blog. one year already. time is an illusion with the ability of aviation.)
At midnight, I gave her the poems.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Well, the last word in the first line is a trochee, and it rhymes with the end of the next line. So ‘catachresis’ rhymes with ‘fleece’.”
“No, what’s going on?”
“In a catachresis?”
“No. What are you talking about?”
“Uh… I have a big crush on you.”
“Oooooh,” she said. She smiled and let the pages fall on the table. She relaxed in front of my eyes. “So how did it start?”
“Well, I think you’re really beautiful.”
She relaxed a lot more – in fact, her face changed shape a little, got a little more round as if her jaw had unclenched. I didn’t know whether that was a good sign or not, but I couldn’t shut up yet.
“I always thought so. Right away, when I saw you.”
“The amazing black dress,” she nodded. “I was wearing that when I met you. There’s, uh, a lot of me in that dress. My Fuck the Hostess dress. It’s a real ‘drop to your knees and say amen’ dress.”
“I noticed. It’s gotten a lot worse since then.”
“I know.” She lit one of my Dunhills. I had never seen her so comfortable. “I was on the phone with my friend Merit tonight, and she was like, Does Rob like you? And I said, I don’t know, he made me a tape and he didn’t call and then we danced together and then he left and called and left a message but didn’t call after that. And Merit was like, So, do you like Rob?”
I couldn’t believe she was making me do this. “So, do you?”
She smiled. “I don’t know. He’s not my type, but I really like him.”
love is a mixtape, by rob sheffield
i found this book about five years ago, just wandering around in the library. this was back when the library next door was still a place of wonder and mystery, and not, well, work. so there i was, scanning the shelves, looking for something new to read when – hm. it’s weird to think that i would have never known it existed, had my eyes just skipped this one spine. this actual, real life, life story that’s so sad and wonderful at the same time. it’s weird, having never heard of it outside of myself. all of this music, that i wouldn’t have heard in this beautiful way. my eyes always linger an extra second or two when i pass it by; stacking books, lost in work. i look at the title and the corners of my mouth turn up, just a little. life and loss, one song at a time.