Last night I heard one of my favorite writers speak—he may be my favorite living writer—and I was so brokenhearted I could barely take it in. Afterward, I bought a new copy of his best book (I’d read the last copy to shreds), and made an ass of myself as he signed it. I forgive myself because I’d known this would happen. I’m balls out when it comes to meeting movie actors and rock stars, but on the rare occasions I’ve met the writers I cherish, I’ve presented as angsty, unbalanced, wild-eyed. I think it is because I was raised more by my favorite authors than by my parents. I learned to read at age 3, inhaled adult books by kindergarten, and relied on essays, novels, and memoirs for the models of decency and decorum, the communion and care-taking, that I received nowhere else. It’s no wonder I’ve always been a disaster when I’ve met my favorite authors. The degree to which I’ve cathected to them has made our dynamics hideously uneven.
The person I met last night was Edmund White, whose work I’ve loved since reading “The Beautiful Room Is Empty” in the university library while my peers fell upon each in beery, Gap-clad messes. (I hated college.) As he signed “The Farewell Symphony” for me, I welled up and recited the Joshua passage I’ve quoted here. I saw his eyes widen in sympathy and alarm but couldn’t reel myself in; any emotional pregnancy unmoors me completely right now. I know I am not alone in feeling this way, far from it. But I am ashamed to say I am not just mourning the demise of the United States of America. I also am mourning the death of hopes I’ve nursed for months and months. Continue Reading →