Thought of the Week: Fame and Humanity

A thing happened last week that did something for me I’ve not been able to achieve myself for a lifetime. It rekindled my faith in my own abilities, in a way; it made me rethink what it means to achieve success, and how one goes about it. It made me think twice about myself and my craft.

I was spoken to by a famous person.

In case you forgot (or didn’t read—shame on you!), last week I posted a review of the book Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani. In it, I described how I was heartbroken and torn by her story, and that I was likely to worry about her and her family for some time. I wrote these words for you, my readers, and like I often do, I shared my heart.

Never did I imagine that Christa herself would end up reading those same words. Not two days later, I received the following tweet from @cparravani:

@satiswrites No need to worry about me now, or ever. My life is filled with joy, love, and mundane pleasures. Thanks for reading Her!

I was in the middle of cooking dinner (a rather mundane meal itself—pasta with turkey and zucchini) when my iPhone buzzed. I thought perhaps it was some WordPress notification, or maybe one of my writing friends messaging me. I’ve been active lately trying to promote my own book, and I thought perhaps it was a response to something I’d put online. It took me a moment to realize what the tweet meant, and a moment longer to think to check who it was from.

My immediate response was to tell my writing friend, Alexandra Corinth, who had recommended Christa’s book to me in the first place. (It turns out she had received a tweet from Christa too.) My second impulse was to think very, very carefully about an appropriate response. I think I botched it pretty well:

@cparravani I’m honestly happy for you; I get myself into trouble worrying about people! Thanks for reading my review – I feel honored!

Here’s what struck me, though. This was no interview. This wasn’t a book signing. I hadn’t sought Christa out. She found me, of her own accord. And this is where I need to explain myself, and why this is so significant to me.

I have a somewhat bizarre condition wherein I refuse to believe that books, movies and music can be created by people. I don’t mean to say that I believe art is created by robots, or aliens; I know logically that it’s created by humans no different than myself. But I simply cannot bridge the gap between someone like myself, who reads and writes in a cold basement, and someone like Steven Spielberg, whose vision has influenced millions. I refuse to believe that even my favorite musicians and bands are real. This is in spite of holding their records in my hands, and even seeing them live. There is a completely illogical disconnect in my mind between the artist and the consumer.

What this means for me is that I absolutely cannot see myself in the position of my favorite authors—selling thousands of copies of my book, being in the public eye, even—ha!—having a Wikipedia entry for myself. It simply isn’t possible. The world doesn’t work like that. I’m destined to write forever for myself, pushing unwanted copies of my book onto my friends and family. Stephen King isn’t a real person—his books don’t really exist (I’ve read most of them)—and therefore I can never be like him.

Back to Christa Parravani. She took time out of her day to send a tweet directly to me. She felt affected by my words enough to want to say something. But it goes beyond that: I feel like I caught a famous person doing something utterly human. She was reading a review of her own book. She was probably cooped up in her Brooklyn home, stranded by the same snow storm that kept me indoors, and searched for her name, or reviews of her book. How many times have I read and reread the two reviews I have for my own book?

It’s funny, because in some ways Christa Parravani is no more famous than I am. Her book is #87,000 in the Kindle bestsellers list; mine was #160,000 after only one sale. She has 965 Facebook likes (966, now); I have 1,016 (admittedly, most of those are from India where my pen name sounds like a god). She’s not on Wikipedia; nor am I. But this simple gesture made me realize: Christa Parravani is human. And so am I.

Thank you, Christa. You made my day.

P.S. I’m aware it might have been a tweet bot, but I’d like to pretend it was really you.


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