Various people have been…

Various people have been asking me lately what it's like, having a big public book thing happening. And it's fun, and I track reviews, and sure, I do check my Amazon numbers a couple times a day. I love it that the Chicago Reader just interviewed me, and that a photographer is coming by from them tomorrow morning. (He's thinking a woodsy backdrop; we'll see.) But I think a writer could get way more obsessive about this stuff than I am. Partly I'm distracted by the party planning, and my students, and the house stuff, and putting on a lit festival, and finishing my novel. But partly, I think I'm a bit insulated to it all by the fact that it's all happened before.

Oh, not on this scale. But you know, I had my five minutes of fame once already, about ten years ago, when the media was hopping about this new thing, the internet, and my website was being threatened by the Communications Decency Act, and I was interviewed for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and for TIME, and by Dan Savage, and participated in a town meeting on Seattle TV. I've already been through the shock of fame once, the experience of walking into a convention and having total strangers know who I was. And then, as the net got bigger, much much bigger, and my presence on it got proportionally smaller, my fame dissipated. So it goes.

Fame's fun and exciting, at least for someone like me, who likes being the center of attention. I'll enjoy it while it lasts. But I don't really expect it to last long, because fame is fleeting, and you know, it's probably for the best that it is. Because living well is better in the long run. The roses are starting to open in my rooftop garden. I had leftover noodles for lunch, and they were good. Day-to-day pleasures, that's what sustains me.

Thomas Wolfe tells us, "You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity." W.H. Auden says, "Fame often makes a writer vain, but seldom makes him proud." Francis Bacon says, "Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swoln, and drowns things weighty and solid." But my favorite thoughts on fame are always those from Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias. You probably know them already, but in case you don't...


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

2 thoughts on “Various people have been…”

  1. A few years ago when I worked for the Royal Ontario Museum for a season, taking tours through a visiting exhibition of 5,000 year-old Egyptian art, I was told that “Ozymandias” (who did exist) is now more commonly rendered as “Usermaatre.” Not that they know what vowels would have been in there, but they know what the consonants were. I asked why the extreme difference between the two versions of the names, and was told that “Ozymandias” was closer to how the ancient Greeks rendered the Egyptian name.

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