Those of you who know me know that I frequently develop what I call "writer crushes". (I also develop strong musician crushes, but lately my obsession with the the extraordinary kd lang has left me little room or time to expand in that arena).
Some of my crushes are fleeting (Mark Helprin comes to mind, sorry bookies), some enduring (Alice Munro, William Styron, David Foster Wallace, Naguib Mafouz). But lately, and far above all others, I have developed a long, kd lang-esque level of fascination with Junto Diaz. Yes - 2012 MacArthur Fellow, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winning, 2012 National Book Award finalist, fellow Rutgers University graduate, MIT Professor (MIT Professor!) of creative writing, raised in New Jersey (my sort of home-state) - that Junot Diaz.
So you can imagine my excitement when yesterday, after listening to Kathryn Harrison read from her latest book, Enchantments, at the Brattleboro Literary Festival with a few women from my book group, my friend Nancy said with a sly smile, "Rita, I have a picture I want to send you." My first thought was that it was some god-awful picture of me for I am incredibly, verifiably, unphotogenic.
I was floored when she presented me with this:
Nancy and Junot talking it up and obviously having a great time in NYC.*
Con Mucho Carino
With Much Love
(I have not felt this close to a writer since that time in Alaska when I slept in the same bed as Barbara Kingsolver).
As thrilled as I am - and please believe me, I am thrilled - to have a book signed to me by Junot (I feel he and I are on a first name basis now, given the intimacy of his personal note and the Rutgers connection) I am more astounded by Nancy. I have a friend who would selflessly take time out of a NYC trip without her daughters to stand in line to have JD sign a book for ME, in Spanish - not even getting one for herself. I repeat, she did this for ME... How do I say thank-you for that?
My love for Junot may eventually fade. Another writer will stun me and make his or her way into my heart for a while, leading me to buy a bunch of books and spend many early morning hours drinking too much coffee while I internet-stalk his or her career, reviews, and public speaking schedule. No matter how powerful those crushes may become however, I can guarantee that every time I think of Junot now, or recommend his books, or see his name in some article, or pass his books on my bookshelf, or read that he has been honored with yet another literary award, I will think of Nancy and feel a twang of the crush I feel for her today.
*There was some debate with the photographer as to whether or not Junot actually kissed Nancy's cheek. Nancy was sure of it and that is good enough for me. Therefore - although I know it is probably too much to ask - in the vein of Marcia Brady and Davey Jones, I am hoping that she never washes her cheek again. Just the one side.