We saw Garrison Keillor at party last weekend, but didn’t talk to him, following a general principle of leaving celebrities alone unless you really have something to say. The next day I regretted this, as it occurred to me that while I may not have had much to contribute beyond the appreciation of a fan, he might have enjoyed talking to Greta, the apprentice writer. So today when we turned onto Chartres St. in the French Quarter and saw him leaving his hotel, I shamelessly buttonholed him and introduced him to Greta.
They had a wonderful conversation, as he talked about his own early forays into writing, and how writers need to write – you have to get up and do it every day. Over the past few months many people have suggested that I should write a book about this trip, but I’ve always felt that Greta should write it, not me. As Greta talked a bit about the trip, you could see the wheels turning in his head, and the two of them started to rough out the premise for the book (which he thought should be a novel, not a memoir – I’ll leave off any more discussion of its direction to avoid being a spoiler.) He was just very engaged and thoughtful, and when we sat down for lunch, Greta wrote down all of his advice.
As we walked off I had my own literary déjà vu. In his first novel, The Moviegoer, Walker Percy’s protagonist is walking down the street in New Orleans, and sees the actor William Holden up ahead of him. Holden asks a young honeymooner for a light, and afterwards he can see the change in the young man, as the brush with celebrity has brought him out of his humdrum experience, making his own life somehow more real. As with so much else in New Orleans, it’s hard to distinguish art from reality.