Sometimes, you just need to put things out in the world. It’s a running joke with my friends about how badly I want to meet Paul Auster. Some people obsess over rock stars, some over actors but for me, it’s always been writers. In this case, a writer who doesn’t use social media and still writes his books on a typewriter.
I consider myself pretty well connected. I’m a writer. (Of knitting books, but hey! It counts!) I know a lot of writers, many of them very well known, very famous, and friends with a lot people. I have representation at a fairly large agency. I know multiple publicists at multiple publishing houses. Yet… no Auster connection. Believe me, I’ve asked all of them.
I’m taking my first ever trip to New York City this summer, the city where I believe Mr. Auster has spent the majority of his life. This may be the one chance I get to make my dream of meeting him happen. Despite my daydreams of just bumping into him on a corner, I’ve been warned that New York is in fact, quite large, and my chances of meeting him by chance are very small. With absolutely no connections, and at the advice of a friend, I’m just going to write about my desire to meet my favorite author and maybe, just maybe, someone who knows someone will see it and a magic moment will happen.
So here’s what I would love to say to Paul Auster, if by chance, he does see this.
Dear Paul Auster,
I’m sure you get this every day, but your books changed my life. One book in particular, which, if you’ll allow me, I’ll get to.
My Dad got me a copy of “Mr. Vertigo” when I was 14. I really enjoyed it and you became one of those authors I would scan the shelves for when I went to a bookstore. When I could afford a new book, I would first look for a book by you. I loved them because they made me think. They weren’t always happy books, in fact Timbuktu made me cry so hard that while reading it in a park, a gang of Christian Harley Riders tried to offer me food and a blanket because they thought I was a runaway teen that was missing home. My jaw hit the floor the first time I read the New York Trilogy. I spent hours discussing it with my brother, who has a doctorate in theology and was equally obsessed by some of the concepts in the book. He used the phrase “linguistic construction of reality”, which is proof that he is smarter than me. The Music of Chance made me so nervous for the protagonists that I was physically stressed about what was happening to them while I was at work and in between chapters. I may have taken a sick day towards the end so I could finish reading.
I picked up “The Invention of Solitude” from the library during one of the darkest points of my life. I had relapsed into an eating disorder without realizing that it had happened. I just told myself I was poor and couldn’t afford to eat, not realizing I was using it as an excuse to be skinny. In hindsight, I was trying to escape myself any way that I could. Parties, music, starvation. I didn’t really want to exist.
When I read your book, it was like the world put on brakes. I read and reread that book until the cover was falling off. I couldn’t bear to give my copy back to the library because even if I got a new copy at a bookstore, it wouldn’t be MY copy. The copy that was changing me. I was scared some of the magic of this book would go away and I wouldn’t be able to continue on this path that your book had started for me.
“Only one thing is certain: he cannot be anywhere until he is here”. That line was a punch to my gut. I quit drinking to excess, I quit dating and with the exception of work I spent my days and nights holed up in a corner of my living room writing. Page after page of who I was, where I was and why I was. I most certainly was not “here”. I was a girl waiting for the right guy, waiting for my band to get famous, waiting for a good job to fall into my lap. I was living in wait for a hundred potential futures, but I wasn’t actually living my life.
I’m sure that your intent when writing wasn’t to tell some 19 year old, “Hey, skinny girl! Eat a sandwich and get yourself together!” but that’s what it did for me. I got myself together. I started living and repairing myself. That book wasn’t just a book for me. It was a call to become a real person.
I know posting a letter and requesting to meet one of my favorite authors is a pretty easy way for me to get labeled as batshit crazy and that there’s only the slimmest chance that this effort will end in a meet and greet. However, my chances are even smaller by not posting this, so why not? Heck, I met Neil Gaiman by sending him knit octokittys as part of a superstitious good luck effort for my derby team. John Scalzi and I became friends after I helped put frosting all over his face for a charity poster. My life happens because I make an effort to make it happen. I learned that by reading your books.
So Mr. Auster, I’ll be in New York the third weekend in August. If you’re free, I’d love to buy you a beverage of your choice and say “hello” and shake your hand. If not, I hope that you at least see this letter and know how much your works have meant to me over the years.
Sincerely and with many thanks,
PS- If you’re judging me for not giving the library book back, I did lie and tell them that I lost it. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to check out more books! I paid the fine so that they could buy a new one, and I only feel a small twinge of guilt when I see it on my shelf.