A few years ago I attended a fundraising event sponsored by the Orange County public library system. A friend arranged (paid) for a well respected, literary author to sit at our lunch table and because I’m a generally lucky person, he sat next to me. I found him to be as charming and witty as his books and short stories. At the time, I was struggling to fit my writing into a schedule and I wanted to know his. That’s what we were talking about when we were interrupted by a New York Times bestselling author. Of course, she hadn’t actually paid money for his attention as my friend had—but frankly, he could have been much kinder to her.
I had previously met and complimented the interrupting author at an earlier workshop and so she, an undoubtedly commercial success, introduced herself to the literary author who, even though he was sitting down and she was standing, managed to look down his nose at her. “I’ve really wanted to meet you,” she said. And he replied something along the lines of humph. (Maybe literary genius repertoire requires some mental stewing.)
And maybe I’m imagining the pain and confusion in her expression as she struggled to strike up a one sided conversation, but I couldn’t help reflecting on another literary genius, Dr. Suess. In Suess’s story The Sneetches, there are two types of creatures—those with stars on thars (on their bellies) and those without. The starred Sneetches control the society while the bare belly Sneetches are social outcasts.
And as I watched the New York Times bestselling author walk away and the literary author returned his attention to me, I couldn’t help thinking that in so many ways, in so many situations, we’re not unlike the Sneetches, and we haven’t come very far from where I first learned to love and read Dr. Suess—the elementary school lunch tables.