When I meet an author I admire, I get incredibly nervous. This anxiety doesn't take the form of a charming, Woody Allen-esque brand of nervousness, but rather the girlish anxiety of someone like Annie Hall. When I'm confronted with one of my favorite writers, it's like an encounter with a penpal. I know this person because of what I've read, but my understanding of them is vague at best. They've been sending me letters for years, and yet, I'm unprepared. When I reach their table, it's like I've run into them at the airport. Sure, they are impatiently waiting for their luggage like everyone else, but I have construed our relationship as something more, so I will just stand there stupidly, letting my suitcase lap the belt while I think of what to say.
This happened with David Sedaris a couple years ago, and when I reached him after an afternoon spent in line outside of Left Bank Books, I was speechless. Inexplicably, my hands cramped up, and any articulate questions or comments were instantly traded for an embarrassing slew of incoherent noises. Fortunately, being the conversationalist he is, he asked about where we'd come from (Brandon, Chip, Alli, and I had ventured from Columbia) and found my sudden lack of speech entertaining, spinning my awkwardness into something cute that he could doodle in the front of my book.
Unfortunately, my stage fright made an appearance last night in front of another one of my top five favorites, the cultural essayist/stone fox Chuck Klosterman.
I'd like to say that his unexpected resemblance to John Lennon or love for Raymond Carver reduced me to a giddy fangirl, but these factors only exacerbated my starstruck state. Klosterman was pretty much exactly like he comes across in his books--articulate but humble, funny yet honest. He was surprisingly open about his dismissal from Spin, interviews with celebrities (Val Kilmer owns bison, did you know that?), and a novel to be released next year. He answered even the stupidest questions ("What's your favorite color?") with a colorful (*no pun intended) anecdote or thoughtful reply. He remained effortlessly cool, despite overly zealous audience members eager to compare him to Hunter S. Thompson or grill him for information about the next big thing. There also seemed to be a couple of people bent on tripping him up, confusing the Q&A session for a round of Trivial Pursuit, but alas, Klosterman knows his shit and his opinions on current music were unapologetic. When asked the unavoidable "What are you listening to?", his answer was predictable but earnest--Jim Croce and Battles, the Brooklyn math rock supergroup that has the staff at Pitchfork wetting their tight hipster pants.
In short, my expectations were sufficiently exceeded. However, I wish I would've been able to say something more than "Thanks for coming" and "Wow, I'm nervous". In a fit of regret, I'll probably risk being annoying and write him a letter to let him know that his writing means a lot more to me than the price of his new book and a couple hours on a Thursday night, but I'm not really one for writing letters--I just like reading them.
*Come on now, pun intended.