• At age 13, Mikita Brittman, author of The Solitary Vice: Against Reading, took part in a school debate in which students portrayed famous people trapped in a hot-air balloon from which gas was leaking. One of the passengers had to be overthrown overboard in order to save the other passengers, and each of the passengers had to make the case that he or she was so important that someone else should be thrown overboard. Mikita, of course, being good with words, was able to convince the other children that her character — Bela Lugosi, star of Dracula — was so important that one of the other characters ought to be thrown overboard instead of Mr. Lugosi. Those other characters included Winston Churchill, King Henry VIII, and Margaret Thatcher.
• The writer J.I.C. Clarke once introduced Mark Twain and very highly praised the stories Mr. Twain had set in Yuba Dam, saying that they were the best things Mr. Twain had ever written. Mr. Twain then stood up and enthusiastically praised a German girl for 10 minutes — to no point, it seemed. Finally, Mr. Twain said, “Gentlemen, I suppose you are wondering what my story of that German girl has to do with Mr. Clarke’s speech and his reference to Yuba Dam. Well, nothing at all, and that’s just it. I never wrote about Yuba Dam. Mr. Clarke is thinking of Bret Harte.” Everyone, including an embarrassed Mr. Clarke, laughed, then Mr. Twain and Mr. Clarke shook hands.
• Lesbian author Gail Sausser occasionally used to be invited to go into classrooms and talk, then answer questions about her life and sexuality. At such times, she behaved with excellent etiquette and grace, even when facing teachers and students who thought she was going to hell. Ms. Sausser says that she was following the advice of her Aunt Pansy, a southern lady, who told her, “If you remain charming, you make your opponent look like an *sshole.”
• G.K. Chesterton was a huge man. Once, while lecturing in America, he heard a gasp at his enormous size as he rose to walk to the podium. Standing behind the amplifier, he told his audience, “At the outset I want to reassure you I am not this size, really — dear no, I’m being amplified.”
• In 2007, Fantagraphics published an 878-page book titled Laura Warholic: or The Sexual Intellectual, which is the first novel written by Alexander Theroux in 20 years. Of course, Fantagraphics usually publishes comic books and graphic novels, not envelope-pushing novels, but Mr. Theroux had published two monographs with Fantagraphics: The Enigma of Al Capp and The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Because Fantagraphics was the only publisher willing to publish such a long novel without excessive editorial meddling, Mr. Theroux was happy to have Fantagraphics as the novel’s publisher. However, he does acknowledge that his pay for writing the novel is not much. According to Mr. Theroux, “For this novel I earned less than a Burger King tweenie in a paper hat. But nowhere should you compromise. You have to find plenitude in your work and redemption in your dreams.”
• When J.K. Rowling wrote her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, her agent sent it to Bloomsbury Publishing, where an editor named Barry Cunningham wanted to publish the book. However, he needed to get the permission of the company’s directors to do so. A colleague of his, Rosemund de la Hay, came up with an idea to get the company’s directors to consider the book carefully. They enclosed a package of Smarties candy with each manuscript that they sent to the company’s directors. Because the Smarties Prize is awarded to the best children’s book published in Great Britain each year, this was a way of indicating that they thought that the book was good enough to win that prize. In fact, after the book was published, it did win the Smarties Prize.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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