I went to the Texas Book Festival this weekend and geeked out, which is the annual tradition. The book festival is a weird place because writers sort of become celebrities, and in the book tent, I overheard people discussing a writer who was nearby–trying to remember something he mentioned in a panel he was on. It’s cool because they’re kind of famous, but it’s no big deal. These people aren’t on TMZ or Gawker, which I’m guessing has to be nice for them, but people want to talk to them, and there’s a bit of an aura about them because, hell, they wrote a book and that’s a pretty big deal.
But I’m a pretty big geek, so, sometimes I spot writers on the street and…act like I’m about to take some pics with my camera phone and submit them to US Weekly’s “They’re Just Like Us” section. I felt weird when I caught myself pointing to David Rakoff one year. He was on the phone, but I couldn’t stop myself from telling my friend Ben, “That’s David Rakoff! I read his book last year, and I really liked it!” I was glad that if he overheard me talking about him as though he weren’t five feet away that at least I was saying something nice.
This year, I got on an elevator and did a scan of the people around me and after a quick double take realized I knew the man standing right next to me. “Hey, you’re….” I started, and then I stopped because it felt weird, like I was just about to announce to everyone as the doors closed and we all became confined to a small space that we were in the presence of someone who’s Kind of A Big Deal. And, it wasn’t Matt Damon or Alton Brown, for that matter, but it was an Austin writer who was voted Best of Austin for 2010 and works or worked (I’m not 100% sure) with Master Pancake. So, not Brad Pitt, but someone I’ve seen doing quite a bit in Austin’s literary scene.
I recovered with, “You’re, uh…you’re very funny.” Which is true.
“Oh, hey, thanks” he said.
And then because I can’t stop talking, I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what the etiquette is for stopping someone in an elevator, but I just wanted to say that I’ve seen you around town, and I think you’re very funny.” Apparently, I feel that babbling=adorable.
He thanked me again, and assured me that he thought I’d behaved quite appropriately. “I’m sure I’ve done worse,” he laughed.
I headed to an awesome panel about a book called The Zeroes, which sounds fascinating, when I realized that I had the perfect response to what he’d said because when I met Dorothy Allison, I asked her about using baby piss as a hair treatment, which, I think we can all agree, is “worse” than sincerely complimenting someone in an elevator. But he’d left and the moment had passed, and while I was tempted to use the line if I ran into him again, I finally had to realize that that would be trying way too hard.
And that’s the weird thing about the Texas Book Festival, which is that authors become celebrities, and I have to fight off the allure of being a geeky fan and treating them like they’re Elvis.