On Meeting Idols

May 13th, 2013

I met Ursula Le Guin the other day. It was a short meeting, at which I asked her to sign my copy of The Left Hand of Darkness. It’s the copy of the book that belonged to my father, which I nicked when I went off to college, carrying away the few classic science/speculative fiction novels he had in his personal library. I try to keep these author encounters short these days. I want to meet them, and Le Guin is possibly my favorite living author. I hope you’ll forgive me, but favorite author is a difficult choice to make.

Le Guin was appearing in support of an adaptation of The Left Hand of Darkness. I will be seeing that adaptation in a few days. She was interviewed by an OPB radio host who did a fair job of asking questions. Le Guin is, of course, an old hand at this. It is understandable if a few of the questions seemed rote or trite to her. She handled them with grace and just the amount of elderstateswomanly harumph that she has earned (as much as she wants).

After the appearance, I went over and asked her to sign my book. A young woman of 8-12 in costume had just done so, and I felt a little silly. Le Guin asked me if I wanted my name in the book. I always feel a little odd about that, so I said no. She immediately said she understood, but I suspected she figured my copy (an old Ace softcover) would soon be on Ebay. I considered explicitly telling her I would never do that, but it seemed like I would sound like I was protesting too much.

Triumphant, signed book in the back of my cycling jacket, I returned home, confident I had managed for once to encounter a beloved author without making an ass of myself. (I often joke that embarrassing myself in front of authors is my superpower.) As I rode, I became more convinced that she figured me for reselling the book, which blunted my feelings of triumph. When I got home I discovered that the ancient copy, now with author signature, had broken in half in my pocket. The Ace spine, a cheap production not meant for many rereads, had broken in the middle of one of my favorite scenes, with Genly and Estraven crossing the ice. I was left with two halves of a book, thinking about why we try to get author signatures in the first place. The stuff the author considered meaningful is already on the page.

Comments are closed.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.