David Bruce: Authors Anecdotes

• William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, won the Noble Prize for Literature for the year 1983. The day after he had learned that he had won, he drove his car into a country town and parked his car illegally so he could run into a shop for a couple of minutes. When he left the shop, he discovered that a meter maid had given him a parking ticket. The meter maid pointed to a sign about parking and asked him, “Can’t you read?” He then drove around the corner and saw two policemen, whom he asked if he could go to Town Hall and pay his parking fine immediately. One policeman replied, “No, sir, I’m afraid you can’t do that.” Mr. Golding felt as if the policeman thought of him as one of “those people who are clearly harmless if a bit silly.” The policeman showed him a place on the parking ticket that was marked “name and address of sender” and told him, “You should write your name and address in that place. You make out a cheque for ten pounds, making it payable to the Clerk to the Justices at this address written here. Then you write the same address on the outside of the envelope, stick a sixteen-penny stamp in the top right-hand corner of the envelope, then post it. And may we congratulate you on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.”

• Ray Bradbury remembers being presented with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters as “a fantastic evening”; however, he did run into a problem. Late in the evening, heading back to his room, he suddenly felt an urgent need to pee. He said, “For God’s sake, where’s the men’s room?” None was handy, but fortunately a woman said, “There’s a potted palm over there. Why don’t you go use it?” Mr. Bradbury says, “Nobody saw me. At least I don’t think so.” One of Mr. Bradbury’s most famous works is Fahrenheit 451, which is about a fireman who does not put out fires, but instead starts them in order to burn books. Mr. Bradbury, of course, loves books. He says, “I’m completely library educated. I’ve never been to college. I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library.” He also used to steal magazines from a store, wash his hands, read the magazines, and then sneak them back into the store and put them back where they belonged. By the way, Mr. Bradbury’s lifelong credo is this: “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

• As a young man, William Faulkner became friends with Sherwood Anderson. Before noon, Mr. Faulkner would never see Mr. Anderson, but in the afternoon they would walk together around New Orleans and talk to people, and in the evening they would share a bottle or two of an alcoholic beverage and Mr. Faulkner would listen as Mr. Anderson talked. Mr. Faulkner decided that if this was the life of a writer, then the life of a writer was the life for him. He began writing his first novel, and he discovered that he liked writing. After about three weeks of Mr. Faulkner not seeing Mr. Anderson, Mr. Anderson showed up at Mr. Faulkner’s home and asked him, “Are you mad at me?” Mr. Faulkner replied that he was writing his first novel. Mr. Anderson said, “My God!” Then he left. Soon Mr. Faulkner finished his first novel, and Mr. Anderson’s wife told him, “Sherwood says that he will make a trade with you. If he doesn’t have to read your manuscript, he will tell his publisher to accept it.”Mr. Faulkner says, “I said, ‘Done,’ and that’s how I became a writer.”

• Dorothy Parker was fired from her job as a drama critic at Vanity Fairbecause she panned the plays of three very powerful men: Dillingham, Ziegfeld, and Belasco. In solidarity with her, Robert Sherwood and Robert Benchley quit. Ms. Parker said, “It was the greatest act of friendship I’d known.” They all went to work for Life, where she and Mr. Benchley shared an office of which she famously observed, “He and I had an office so tiny that an inch smaller and it would have been adultery.” As you would expect, Ms. Parker was a good interviewee. Marion Capron of The Paris Reviewasked her, “What, then, would you say is the source of most of your work?” Ms. Parker replied, “Need of money, dear.” By the way, Ms. Parker at first wrote in longhand, although she later used a typewriter: “I wrote in longhand at first, but I’ve lost it. I use two fingers on the typewriter. […] I know so little about the typewriter that once I bought a new one because I couldn’t change the ribbon on the one I had.”

• In her memoir I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, Maxine Hong Kingston writes that Joseph, her grown son, reads all of her writing and has requested of her, “Don’t write about me.” She agreed, but later in the book she wrote that once when Joseph was very young she gave him a whole bag of marshmallows so she could write uninterrupted for 20 minutes. She also writes about how she and Alice Walker were arrested while protesting war. The result was that they were both handcuffed and put in jail. Ms. Kingston was forced to ask Ms. Walker to undo her pants for her so she could pee.

• Swedish author Stieg Larsson became internationally famous with the publication of the crime series Millennium Trilogy, of which the title of the first volume was translated as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. His father bought him for his 13thbirthday an expensive typewriter after reading a novel that Stieg had written in a notebook. In addition to being expensive, the typewriter was noisy. Sieg’s father says that “we had to make space for him in the cellar. He would write in the cellar and come up for meals, but at least we could sleep at night.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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