Thursday, December 11, 2008

Am I Reclusive? A Misanthrope? Just Plain Weird?


Yesterday I read about a Toni Morrison appearance and about the boring questions she got from the audience. I was nodding my head because after all, how often does anybody really come up with an interesting question for an author? Ms. Morrison was asked which authors she would enjoy meeting or speaking with and she said something to the effect that just because she liked a certain author's work didn't mean she'd want to actually meet that person.

I have to agree. The only authors I'd like to meet in person are the ones I've "met" on line. I don't think that really counts because I think of them as nice people who just happen to be writers.

The older I get, the less interested I become in people I don't already know and I'm wondering if that's weird, or if that's pretty normal.

If I could have dinner with six people living or dead, I have a hard time listing strangers I'd legitimately want to spend time with. I don't have any interest in meeting celebrities at all.

I love Ian McEwan's work, but what in the world would I talk to him about for three hours? Would I really care about cultivating a relationship with someone if the encounter was a one-time phenomenon and not an opportunity to develop a friendship? It could still be an interesting meeting, but then how would I know whether a famous person would be particularly likable if all I know is his or her work?

If I were to assemble a dinner table full of people, I'd resurrect the dearly departed from my own family. How fantastic would it be to have both of my grandparents, my parents and my Uncle Phil all back in one place again?

So what about you? Would you spend time with a famous person if you had the chance and if you would, who would it be and what would you hope to learn?

Am I a misanthrope, is this normal or is this just my thyroid talking?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, you're not weird. Some people are just outgoing and retain that all their life, sometimes even getting more expansive in their friendships as they lose their spouses to death and children to distance. But some of us tend to tighten in our circles a bit to those we feel most comfortable with.

That said, I'd still like to have a sit-down smoke and absinthe with Edgar Allen Poe.

susan @ spinning

Patti said...

i don't get the celebrity thang, that being said i have this interest in musicians and how it is they do what they do. maybe because it's so foreign to me. don't know that i want to sit and have dinner with them. "so, um, how do you do that?!" d'oh....

Lana Gramlich said...

I have so little interest in people in general that I barely need to leave my home anymore. Never have I been happier, either. I mean, as you've said, there are some bloggers & whatnot I'd be interested in meeting, but celebutards are a waste of time to me. I might resurrect Carl Jung or invite Roger Waters & Stephen Hawking to dinner, but only if there was still enough room for Dad, Uncle Bud, Uncle Jim, etc., etc.

Melissa Marsh said...

There are only a very select few celebrities that I would want to meet, and that is because I've heard good things about them, that they are genuinely nice people (well, ok, I just want to meet Daniel Craig because he is DANIEL CRAIG).

But no, I don't think you're weird. I think you're right with the idea that just because you like the artist's art, you won't necessarily like the artist themselves.

debra said...

Fame doesn't necessarily intrigue me.
I'd love to spend time with the dear ones I know and haven't had time to visit. And I'd love to meet some of my cyber-buddies over coffee.
And I'd love to see my parents and grandparents---and for them to see my amazing children.

Elizabeth said...

I think I'd be paralyzed if I really had a meeting with, say, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. I'd rather admire from afar, I suppose. But I'm with you on assembling a dinner party of the departed -- but I'd love to add some really fabulous poets and writers from hundreds of years ago: William Blake, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, Pascal. But I don't think I'd want to be their friend...

Also, I went to Toni Morrison, too, and was struck by the dumb questions myself. That ALWAYS happens at readings and it just makes me cringe in embarrassment. I think those that have questions just like to hear themselves talk.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, and I love the painting at the top. What's the story with that?

kristenspina said...

You're not weird. And if I were planning that dinner, you'd be at the head of the table!

moonrat said...

it's so strange, but i feel like in a lot of ways (caveat: this does not apply to any online writer friends, who are somehow totally above all this) the more i know about the personal life of an author, the more i find myself withdrawing from their work. it's so hard to be a celebrity, and writing is such a personal creation. i know what you mean, i do.

who would i choose? hmm. who do i think could actually withstand any pedestal tumble? hmmmmmm.

steve said...

I've grown up reading Ambrose Bierce, which makes me a little strange in the first place. If I could meet him, I suspect he'd hit me with the cane he carried for use on critics (or said he did).

And I second Elizabeth on the picture. If you can tell us where it came from, or anything about it, we'd be most grateful.

Sustenance Scout said...

I'm guessing Bosch but that's just because I'm Dutch. :) I love the idea of gathering family who've passed away to hear their stories of life way back when. The longer ago they lived, the better, but stories about my parents when they were kids are always fun too. As for real live people, I guess I'm outgoing in that I can strike up an inane conversation with just about anyone! Or maybe I'm just nosy. K.

Lisa said...

Susan, Hmmm...absinthe and Poe. Very intriguing. Now you, I want to hang out with!

Patti, That's it for me, exactly! Whatever it is that they do that you admire, there's only so much you can talk about, right? Plus, I'd feel like a total ass because celebrities are asked the same things all the time. When I get to know a PERSON, I'm much more interested in how they think and who they really are than what they've done.

Lana, I think I could enjoy spending time with people who have put a lot of deep thought into specific subject areas (like psychology, cosmology, philosophy, theology -- the "ologies"), but only if I wouldn't end up feeling like a total dumbass, so I guess it would depend on the temperament of the person. But guys like that much more than creative types, I think.

Melissa, I had to Google Daniel Craig, which shows how tuned in I am to movie stars! Yes, I can think of a lot of very unlikable sounding painters and writers that I would NOT like to meet :)

Debra, Wouldn't it be great to meet all our blogging friends in real life? I'd love it.

Elizabeth, See, I feel the same way. I hate the idea of turning into a sycophantic, babbling idiot and that's exactly what would happen to me if I met someone like Dylan or Elvis Costello or Toni Morrison or Philip Roth, etc. It's an uneven power balance that would just make me feel like a dork.

I think the book reading needs to be seriously reconsidered, along with a lot of other publishing industry staples. I doubt it really sells many more books, it's hard on the author and I think it's even a little demeaning to force authors to go out and promote books and consequently, self. And at the end of it all, I'm just as happy watching a YouTube video of an author I like because there really is no big advantage to seeing an author in person. I'm to the point where I go to book signings for people I know, just to provide moral support but I don't think Joyce Carol Oates missed seeing me the last time she went through town.

Kristin, You are so sweet! You're invited to my dinner party too!

Moonrat, That's a really good point. When I love an author's work, he or she can only disappoint in real life. I would rather let the work stand for itself and not know that the author is abusive, or a womanizer or even just plain...boring.

Steve, Thanks for that hysterical visual of Ambrose Bierce hitting you with his cane!

For you and Elizabeth, the painting is The Misanthrope, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder and for Karen, good eye. Of course he was Dutch and he was heavily influenced by Bosch :)


I don't think you're nosy! Writers aren't nosy, they are just curious by nature, right???

Larramie said...

While Emily Dickinson might be considered -- if only to find out the truth about her life ;) --, I could care less about anyone renowned. The truth is I don't even read about the famous...after all they're so "fleeting." *G*

Also consider what a one-way conversation it would be since the famous wouldn't know who you were.

Seachanges said...

Nothing more boring than having to spend time with famous or 'important' people - neither they nor you know what to talk about in each other's company. That's because usually you have nothing else in common than the fact that you recognise them as important or famous and they are aware that they are being recognised as such. How boring is that?
I often scratch my head (figuratively) when trying to think, desperately, about somehting something to say when in company of said people... it's a waste of time!

Lisa said...

Larramie, That one-way nature is probably what bothers me most. I guess I'm just not drawn to an exchange with someone who hasn't the slightest interest in who I am. Now, I think maybe if I rephrased the "what if" to: what if you had to be stuck in an elevator for four hours with a stranger, who might you choose to be stuck with? That levels the field because neither of you chose the circumstance and it's not about them.

Seachanges, Exactly! Once you get beyond, "I love your work"...or whatever it is they are famous for, there's not much else, is there?

Cat B said...

I would like to meet Jane Austen. Sigh.

Steve Malley said...

Jerry Seinfield used to do a bit in his stand-up act about how much harder it is to make friends as you age. It got a lot of laughs, so you're probably not alone! :)

Shauna Roberts said...

I've never gotten why people go ga-ga over celebrities either. If I had my dream dinner party, I'd either invite my dead relatives or people who changed history in positive ways. For example, Abraham Lincoln has so many contradictions in his personal history; I would love to find out how he became the person he was at the end.

Travis Erwin said...

I'd like to hang out with Hemingway, fishing drinking and talking smack about Faulkner.

Lisa said...

Steve, That's so true. When I was in my twenties, I'd hang out with just about anybody. Most of my friends were people I worked with and/or my neighbors. Now that I'm older and much more set in my ways, and because I enjoy my solitude, I'm much more picky about the people I choose to spend time with. It's not that I don't like people...I guess that it's that I don't like most people enough to want to spend a lot of time with them.

Shauna, Lincoln -- good one! Actually the people who changed the world or changed how we think about things would be much more interesting than the people who act or write or paint, I think.

Travis, I have really funny visual right now!

Sphinx Ink said...

Over the years I've met a number of authors. Some were nice, even charming, but some were big disappointments. One whose writing is lyrical, insightful, and among my favorite books turned out to be whiny and self-focused in person, hypersensitive to perceived slights to her, but not able to see slights she was inflicting on others. Another whose books showed insight into characters was irritable, sexist and condescending in person.

I've concluded perhaps it's best not to meet one's idols, lest they have feet of clay. Far better to fantasize about what wonderful friends they might make, without actually putting it to the test....

Lisa said...

Sphinx, You just reminded me of the Jack Nicholson character in "As Good As It Gets". He wrote romance novels but he was a true misanthrope!

Riss said...

I will die an extrovert I think. I have a few actors or people I'd like to meet but not because they are famous but because I want to pick their brains. I was just going on about this the other day. And, I have to ask, how do you know they wouldn't be interested in you? Just because they don't know who you are in the same way you know their name or face instantly doesn't make it all that different than normal life. I don't know squat about half the people I pass-doesn't make me any more or less inclined to meet them, also doesn't automatically mean that I don't care about who they are or whatever. I am fascinated by the idea of fame and celebrity as a general rule so I'd think it'd be cool to meet some of the better ones and see what they think. Maybe it's just me.

I did get sick of meeting random people and then having to part ways again all through Europe but at the same time there were some really great moments that came from chance meetings and random nights out. Lasting relationships are really valuable and rare but sometimes it's the little ones that can really change you.

Sustenance Scout said...

Ah, Brueghel! (shakes finger somewhat but not really knowingly) Of course!

And thanks for not thinking I'm nosy. Just compulsively curious, ...or curiously compulsive? Either would fit most writers, I think. :)

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf