You must be aware of the intimidation factor inherent in anyone’s writing to you, but I wonder if maybe the paradigm is similar to what happens when a stunning woman walks into a room: no one approaches her, she’s simply too beautiful; everyone assumes they have no shot. Maybe you don’t get many letters. Maybe you haven’t received a truly balls-out, bare-assed communiqué since 1959.
You once signed a book for me. That’s the extent of our connection thus far, but it’s something, isn’t it? The book was The Counterlife, but I had yet to read it when I presented it to you for signature. You were unsure of the spelling of my name, and so there’s an endearing awkwardness, a lack of flow, to the inscription. For E, you wrote, and the pen held still too long on the page, leaving a mark at the point of the lowest horizontal’s completion while you waited for me to continue spelling. L, you continued on, and then, again, a spot of bleeding, hesitant ink before the i and the s and the a, which proceed as they should before your slanted, rote, wonderful autograph. I remember being all too aware of the impatient line behind me, people clutching their copies of Portnoy’s Complaint, Goodbye, Columbus, The Human Stain, the odd Zuckerman Unbound. I tried to meet your eye, I tried to communicate something meaningful. The others, of course, didn’t get it. I wanted you to know: I got it. Later, when I found my way to reading the book, I actually purchased a whole new copy so I wouldn’t sully my signed paperback. I cherish our moment of eye contact, your pen hovering over the title page, my name circulating in that colossal mind of yours.
But wait. This is no mere fan letter; no mere exercise in soft-core intellectual erotica constructed for your amusement. I have an objective. How old are you now, Philip? Early seventies, is it? You are, of course, notoriously private. I have the books, sure, like everyone else. And the reviews of the books, each of which mentions the notorious privacy. And there’s the Claire Bloom debacle, which I hesitate even to mention, given its complete disrespect of the notorious privacy (though you might be happy to know that I couldn’t find “Leaving A Doll’s House” in any of the four sizable bookstores I checked and had to finally order it on Amazon). And The Facts, which I made a point of reading after the Claire Bloom, for balance. A graduate school friend of mine was your research assistant for a few years while we pursued our MFAs and it took her almost a year of post-workshop drinking to slyly confess, to a rapt audience of salivating young writers, her association to you. (Otherwise you’ll be happy to know she was loyal; she professed total ignorance of your life, your private matters, even your address. She seemed, in retrospect, somewhat terrified of you. I half-seriously offered her boyfriend a blow job if he’d get me your address. The table of young writers giggled madly and took big sips of beer.)