DeLillo now lives in Westchester County in New York State with his wife, Barbara, a landscape designer, but he has not completely left his childhood neighbourhood, a place he insists still “looks the same, though the people are different”: an influx of new immigrants, Serbs, Croats and African-Caribbeans. Every year, he goes back to meet old school friends from the streets of his childhood. “We meet on a major street and have a meal together and a laugh,” he says. Inevitably, the conversation will turn to baseball, DeLillo’s first love – what he calls his “second language”. Baseball, he says, “was just so natural, because we all grew up with it. We played it; we listened to it on the radio, and then we went to Yankee stadium. It was a taken-for-granted pleasure”.
Read the rest. DeLillo is one of my favourite writers and, after reading this interview, I was relieved that he came across as an extremely honest and humble individual. It’s more than pleasant to see.
They say never meet your idols, but the SFF genre – through conventions or signings – has always offered this opportunity. I’ve met several authors whose work I greatly admired and I can honestly say that they have all been wonderful people. Not only have they met my expectations, but they’ve taken the time to chat amiably. Had they come across as rude or obnoxious, there would have been a good chance (perhaps because I’m that stubborn) that I simply wouldn’t have bought their books, or wouldn’t have been as excited about their future releases.
Which isn’t to say that people should be nice so you keep buying their wares, but that there is some strange psychology at play here. Writing, in particular, seems to make connections directly with the minds of others – one of the points of the art, surely. But that also means that there is a one-way familiarity going on, from reader to writer (at least until a dialogue opens), and it’s something for writers to think about. I wouldn’t even equate it to fame – because it’s not, it something different than that, and book sales for the majority of authors would never equate to fame anyway.
I’ve been published by the majors for about a year now, and I’ve got to that stage where I receive mail or even meet people who like the books. A few may even be referred to as fans, but that sounds ridiculous even typing such a phrase. And I’ve realised, after my good dealings with my favourite writers, just how self-conscious I have been not to make a mess of this new species of social discourse.
But I do wonder how writers like Neil Gaiman or George R. R. Martin cope, however, with the sheer weight of expectation that people have of them, due to the connection with their work, which has grown exponentially as more people read and discuss their books. What happens when writers become famous? Maybe they get used to the fact that they must be as wonderful as the writers presented in articles or interviews, or risk disappointing people. Do they feel some kind of sheepish guilt at the fact that people travel miles around have their books signed?
On the other hand, some writers probably don’t give a shit, and resent even having to talk to people who have spent time engaging with their work. How do fans feel when they see their favourite authors coming across like buffoons in an interview? Luckily, I can’t even think of any examples of that right now. Which is probably a good thing.