Earlier today I saw a screening of The Proposition, an Australian western scripted by Nick Cave. I ran into an old classmate there who mentioned a party tonight for the PEN festival. He told me the address so I went there.
There was a guy at the door with a list, but the party was well underway and no one was waiting to go in. I said, "Is this the PEN thing?" The guy said, "Oh, are you with [name I couldn't understand]?" I said, "Maybe." Then he said, "Okay," and seemed to forget I existed.
Inside, a woman was singing in Hungarian, accompanied by a band. There was caviar-y stuff (probably caviar) and slabs of what might have been foie gras, plus lots of salmon, which was horded and devoured by me. Then I noticed a strutting silver-haired person who looked a lot like Martin Amis, one of my favorite writers. I feel pretty confident that it was, in fact, Martin Amis.
(Once, about two years ago, I went to a reading at I think the New Yorker festival. It cost too much but I was in college and I almost never came to New York, and I just really wanted to go. Anyway, I'm in the bathroom before the reading, and a man is standing next to me at the urinal. I look over and it's Martin Amis. After we finish using the urinals, I say, "Are you Martin Amis?"
Him: "Uh, yes."
Me: "I came to see you read."
A pause as we stand by the urinals. He looks at his palms.
Him: "I'm not going to shake your hand.")
Then suddenly, like I'm in one of those surreal dreams where someone famous is sort of bobbing beside you in the swimming pool, I realize the guy standing just to my right is Salman Rushdie. I haven't read as much of Rushdie as I have of Amis, but I'm an admirer, with some reservations. So I say, "Oh, didn't I meet you at [reading event last fall]?"
The truth is, no, I didn't actually meet him there. I feel stupid having done this after just writing condescending things about that girl who plagiarized the Opal Mehta book, but I said what I said.
He was like, "Mm, mm-hm, hm."
I said, "It's okay, I know you don't remember."
He made sort of "Eh, mmm, hm-HMM," noises, I believe designed to (very generously) imply that he might indeed remember without lying outright by actually saying he remembered.
Then somehow I started rambling about this place that hosts readings, and the pool event from a couple weeks ago, and Satyricon, and book parties (he said something like, "What a quaint notion...book parties.") and I had no idea what I was saying or where I was going with any of it, because I seemed like I was going somewhere, but then mercifully some even more awkward person than me just shoved in and said, "Just wanted to say I love your books!" and I was able to sort of back away and spare myself the indignity of forcing him to have to escape from me.
I really should not talk to writers like this on the rare occasions I encounter them. I never compliment their writing, I don't have the sheer obnoxious balls to ask them for...what, a blurb?--and I don't even mention to them that I'm a writer too. I just seem awkward and probably a little alarming.
The rest of the time I mostly wandered around, not drinking. I had fun even if I did feel quite out of place. The food was delicious.