Almost every author I know is friendly, generous and helpful ... but that's in part because I try to give as much as I get to the relationship, and not act like a scraping sycophant or a terminal favor-mongerer.

But everybody, I'm sure, knows at least one jerk. Somebody who's forgotten what it was like to be a struggling author and now has no time or interest in their old friends. Somebody whose desire to protect their time, energy and privacy leads them to be brusque or dismissive. Somebody whose ego and sense of entitlement leads them to demand more for attention and investment for themselves at the expense of others.

What brought this to mind was the man on the current cover of Time magazine, Jonathan Franzen. He's America's most celebrated literary author at the moment ... and, by many accounts (including his own), one of the biggest assholes in the publishing business.

From a New York Times review of his 2006 memoir, "The Discomfort Zone":

Mr. Franzen turns his unforgiving eye on himself and succeeds in giving us an odious self-portrait of the artist as a young jackass: petulant,
pompous, obsessive, selfish and overwhelmingly self-absorbed. ... While some readers will want to give Mr. Franzen points for being so
revealing about himself, there is something oddly preening about his
self-inventory of sins, as though he actually reveled in being so

He describes reasoning that “not having kids freed me altogether” from having to worry about things like global warming: “Not having kids was my last, best line of defense against the likes of Al Gore.” And he describes the judgmental outlook that he and his wife shared for many years: “Deploring other people — their lack of perfection — had
always been our sport.”

Do you know authors like this? Or has your experience within our fraternity been overwhelmingly positive?

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Among intellectuals, artists as a class tend to be more humane and funny than the average bear. Among the artists I know (and I know a lot--grew up around them, and have found myself in their company ever since), poets and composers tend to be the most ferociously careerist and self-regarding, painters the most fun to party with, and dancers the most (how to put this delicately?) physically expressive. Fiction writers tell the best stories, and in my experience have mostly been generous and sane relative to many of the "senior" poets with whom I've come in contact--there's a long tradition of patronage and favoritism in the poetry world that makes people crazy (me included); the fiction world, because of the commercial element, is a relative meritocracy. I haven't met Franzen but he certainly seems like a putz; I did take some vicarious pleasure from his dissing of Oprah, though it was obviosly ungenerous and petulantly arrogant: who are you to say I'm a great writer?
Ah, yes. That Franzen. I knew he screwed up with Oprah -- though I, too, got a bit of glee out of that one.
I've been to nine or ten mystery/crime conventions and have met nothing but nice, mostly fun writers. The few pushy ones go away quickly, and the stars (I was on panels with Robert Crais and David Morrell) shake your hand and offer good wishes. I have two real friends (mystery writers) from these trips as well as a dozen or two "business friends" I regularly communicate with. I went out there trying to sell books and meet bookstore owners, but new friends turned out to be the better bounty. Great information and advice, plus a couple thousand laughs.

Loomis: Knew a dancer once who fit your mold. Never met any painters. As a group, I'd say musicians are tops for a party. Drugs and loose women seem to accumulate -- if I remember right.
Fine, Jack--if you like that kind of thing. Heh.
Never met any painters.

You just did! :)
It's usually the young ones who like to party, though. Got to keep up appearances. Dress in black and talk incessantly about what art should be instead of actually doing it.
All part of the artist myth, isn't it? :) More stuff to outgrow. Like being self-centered and arrogant.

Anyway at our age it's difficult to stay up late enough to get a really good party going! (Comes in part from getting up so early).
Every author I have met has been very nice to me. In the context of conferences they know they are on stage, but more so, they are there because they are the type of person who wants to interact with fans and help other writers. The published writers I count among my friends are great. Cheaper than therapists and better bullshit detectors! The few I have met at readings/book signings usually are on a tight schedule and paying their own way so while polite, they are not likely to stick around and answer questions beyond the allotted time.
Most are very nice people.
I have been to couple of Bouchercons and have never had less than a pleasant experience from any authors I have spoken to, including one I happened onto in the men's room, who I recognized standing a couple of urinals over. We agreed not to shake hands until we had both carefully observed each other washing up.

Actually there are stories circulating about fans following female authors into the ladies' and waiting outside their stall.
Good God. Yet another argument in favor of concealed carry.
We are all nice. Now, don't bother me again!


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