Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nicest Author in the World?

Working in the book business, we have pretty special access to authors. Between trade shows, book tours, drop-in visits, and just plain old customers who are writers, we meet dozens of authors every year. And, of course, we booksellers think of authors like some people think of movie stars or popes. The authors vary, of course, in their level of success, from self-published scribes to Pulitzer Prize winners. And they vary, of course, in how they treat booksellers and the general public.

Some swoop in with an entourage (like Maya Angelou did a few years ago). Some sneak in under the radar (like Oliver Sacks did with actor Robin Williams once in my early days of bookselling). And some try to steal their own books. Well, OK. One tried to steal his own book. But that's another story.

This winter, I was invited to a publisher sponsored dinner with Howard Norman at a book industry trade show. Alas, at the last minute, he canceled--a combination of his mother dying and crazy winter blizzards kept him from coming. Understandable, right? Sure, I was disappointed. I LOVED the Bird Artist and his short story collection Kiss in the Hotel Joseph Conrad and very much liked The Museum Guard and and The Haunting of L and enjoyed his most recent book What is Left the Daughter (coming this summer). But when your mom dies, all bets are off, right?

So it surprised me to get hand-written card in the mail about a month later apologizing for missing the dinner, thanking Green Apple for its support over the years, offering to come by in August when he's in the area, and giving me his snail mail and email addresses.

A real mensch, I say.

Any other nominations for nicest author ever?


Spiros said...

Three come to mind, off the top of my head (and in no particular order): Chuck Palahniuk, Sherman Alexie, and Michael Ondaatje. No anecdotes to share, just based on casual interactions in the store.

Fountain said...

Mr Norman was a regular customer at my place of employment in DC for a number of years and I have to agree that he's a really excellent guy. Very smart, very funny, and very thoughtful- the only thing that surprised me about your post is that he actually got around to getting an email address.

Howard, if you're reading this, I miss our conversations in Mr Heller's store!


jenn said...

Jonathan Safran Foer is a sweetheart.

Mergatroid said...

I'm not so sure about JSF. When I first met him (his first book), he was indeed humble and kind. But last fall, I introduced him to a room of 250 people and he dissed my intro as facile. Which it was, but still.

Dan said...

Howard Norman's wife, the poet Jane Shore was my intro Creative Writing Professor at George Washington University in DC. If he is the nicest author in the world, then surely his wife is the nicest poet in the world. What a wonderful literary family!

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe once called me 'brilliant'. considering i did not really know him, i asked why. 'because you are interviewing me', he said.

steve heilig