New from the roof
I went to the Tin House party last night in the city, and it was one of the best publishing-related parties I have been to in a long time, if only because my sweet Meg (who works for Tin House) was in town for it, and also the adorable Timmy and Rodney were in from Omaha, and my editor Megan and her adorable assistant Sarah were there, plus the lovely Rosie, and some other people I feel warmly toward as well. I was never without delightful conversation. Also I met Colson Whitehead, one of the better tweeters around (amongst other fine works of literature), and he was wearing a really admirable pair of plaid pants, which traveled the fine line between prepster and rude boy. Thumbs up for those pants.
But of course the highlight of my night was my interaction with Daniel Handler.
In 2008 I went on tour for the The Kept Man and I read as part of a group reading at the Makeout Room in San Francisco. The event was some sort of political fundraising reading series thrown by Stephen Elliott, the name of which I can’t recall. (It no longer exists, and has since been replaced by the very fun and successful Rumpus series, which I did in March.) I read with six or seven people that night, and one of them was Daniel Handler, with whom I had maybe a five-minute conversation.
I remember a lot about that night, how nice the crowd was, how another author at the reading hit on me in a disgusting way (I am not special; he hit on everyone that night in a disgusting way), how much fun it was to drive around with my friend Sarah and get lost while looking for the after-party at Andrew Sean Greer’s house, only to finally find it and have it be the Most Awesome House ever. It was a good tour night. Usually most nights are a blur but that stood out as particularly memorable. Stephen Elliott is an amazing organizer and brings interesting people together. It’s just what he does.
Anyway, two nights ago I dropped by Word Bookstore to pick up Meg from an event, and when I walked in the door, there was Daniel Handler. Christine, the owner of Word, promptly introduced us. I knew there was no way he was going to remember me because Daniel Handler meets 967,000 (rough estimate) people a year. I meet 35 (exact number) people a year, and I have a hard time remembering faces and names myself.
But at the same time I felt weird faking it like we had never met. (Do people do that though? Maybe they do.) So I said, “Oh, we’ve met before, we did a reading together.” And he gave me a blank look, but also he was clearly and desperately trying to draw from his memory bank. And I said, “It was at the Makeout Room, years ago, you wouldn’t remember,” and because he is a very nice man he tried even HARDER to remember, but it was just not going to happen. And it was fine. There was no reason for him to remember me. He did not need to feel badly about it.
The next night I saw him at the Tin House party, and I greeted him warmly, and then he stared at me blankly again. And it took several minutes of me reminding him of our conversation for him to recall that he had met me the night before.
Now, because there are a bunch of BEA events going on right now, and he had probably met 1,456 people between the time I had spoken with him the night before and the Tin House party, it was again perfectly acceptable that he did not remember who I am. I will admit it hurt my feelings slightly because as a dark, curly-haired Jewish woman in her late 30s living in New York City, I have a totally distinctive look, especially when it comes to the publishing industry. How was my stunning visage not frozen in his mind forever? I am so very special.
Then, about an hour later, while I was standing and speaking with a large group of people, Mr. Handler walked up to us, and, in a charming act of contrition, said in a booming voice, “Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re Jami Attenberg, right? I know there’s no way you’ll remember me, but I’m Daniel Handler. We read together at the Makeout Room a few years ago.” And thus he nominated himself, stuffed the ballot box, won, and then accepted the award for Class Act of the Night.