My favorite author came to town this week and I went to hear her talk. This was my test. In my last post, I talked about Donna Leon’s quote about fans and how they want to say something that will turn their object of adoration into their instant friend. I disparaged such people, as surely Ms. Leon meant her readers to do, and yet, when face-to-face with my favorite author (not Donna Leon, sorry!), how did I meet the test? Was I dignified and pleasant and quick about asking for her autograph in my copy of her latest book?
No! Of course not!
I quoted Donna Leon! Which forced her to produce an instant deprecating laugh and something to mean she would naturally not think of her fans as a necessary nuisance! Can you believe how clumsy I was?
But then she looked a second time at me and said, “But I’ve met you before.” Anne Perry has a good memory for faces and is gifted with one of the most gracious natures of any reluctant celebrity I can think of. Of celebrities I have met, probably only Angela Lansbury can be said to be as gracious. I have not actually met all that many celebrities. Meeting them is not one of my needs or even wants. Except Anne Perry. I went to meet her because I wanted to know if the person behind her writing was as amazing as I thought.
I met her first about 27 years ago when she spoke on my college campus. I went to hear her with my sister-in-law, who was on the faculty. She came in, this tall, elegant woman in a wine-colored silk shirt-dress and handmade shoes. Her hands were beautiful, with tapering fingers and manicured nails in an understated clear gloss. Her voice was cultured and low, her diction perfect and her accent the British of an educated Londoner.
Yes. Her physical elegance mirrored the elegance of her prose style and the incisive logic of her plot lines. Her speech was interesting, and more interesting were her answers to the many questions put to her by the college students and professors in the audience. She was a match for them in terms of being ready for any question with an intelligent, cohesive, coherent answer.
Fast forward twenty-seven years. I had been to many talks and book signings since that first one. During the times I fancied myself a sonnet-writer, I even wrote a series of murder-mystery sonnets about the themes of several of her books and gave them to her. She wrote a gracious reply. I felt encouraged by her kind words every time she met me again to ask more questions. I met her at a speaking event and luncheon and she asked me if I would contribute a story to an anthology that she and a friend of hers were putting together. I accepted and wrote and sent her the story. The next time she was in my state I saw her again and she thanked me for the story. The anthology idea came to nothing though; it wasn’t published. I mentioned one year that my family and I were going to Scotland, to see the castle where my mother’s clan calls home. It is located near where she lived at the time, and she said she owned a guest house not a mile from the castle, and she gave me the number to book a reservation there. So we ended up staying at her guest-house, and one of the workers there offered to show us the way to find the rented hall where the LDS Church was held on Sunday. When we appeared there, Anne Perry introduced us in Sunday School as her friends. It was all very nice, but it did not feel real.
I wanted to draw back and look at her and ask, “Friends?” I did not feel like one of her friends. She did not invite us to come to her home for a visit, and we did not drop in on her. Nor did I feel she was my friend. I would never ask her to visit my home or to do anything more than sign my books. I was a fan, and maybe a little bit more; maybe an acquaintance. I would have liked to have been more, but I drew back, knowing that it was only in my fantasy world that that would be true.
That was the last time I saw her until the other day. She did not remember my name nor the occasions when we met; it had been about fifteen years in the meantime. But she knew that she knew me somehow. I did not spend time telling her all the details! Thinking of Donna Leon’s quote, I made a quick remark about it being a long time ago and let the next person take my place at her table.
I went home, deciding that dignity demands distance and concentration on the real relationships in my life, which I hasten to say are very satisfying! I have a wonderful family and great friends.
The fantasy will persist, however much I resist. I wonder if she spent any time thinking and remembering later.