Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I have a cold and don't remotely feel interested in writing about the martial arts today. Too hectic. But stories from the publishing world seems to be a crowd-pleaser here, so let me tell you this funny little memory that just came back to me today. This happened to me when I was making the rounds of publishers in Manhattan, trying to sell Loose Lips.

The revolving front doors of the publisher’s office had jammed in mid-revolution, trapping me and some Hispanic man between the panes. The receptionist wasn’t at her desk.

I looked at the man standing patiently in the wedge behind me. He was Puerto Rican, perhaps; his onyx eyes were capped by massive caterpillar eyebrows. He waggled them at me. “She’ll come back,” I mouthed, pointing at the receptionists’ empty desk. He turned up his palms in a gesture of fatalism.

The doors were heavy and solid, and they were stuck fast. When the receptionist didn’t return after five minutes, I began to get slightly panicky. First I knocked lightly on the glass, and then I called out. No one came. Eyebrows remained calm, picking lint from the lapels of his sharp white suit, then cleaning his ear with his pinkie. He smoothed his thick silver hair and his squirrel-tail moustache. After five more minutes, I began pounding on the door and hollering. Eyebrows removed a crimson silk handkerchief from his front suit pocket and dabbed at his forehead. He shook it sharply like a matador’s cape, then carefully re-folded it, creasing the edges between his thumb and forefinger. He used it to blot his upper lip.

I kept pounding and shouting. Eyebrows braced his temple against his hand and rolled his eyes heavenwards.

Finally, a receptionist came rushing out and pushed a button by her desk. The doors began revolving again. I stepped out; Eyebrows followed. “Oh my God. I am so sorry,” she said to us. “We’re trying to get that fixed.” Eyebrows squared his shoulders and snorted over his thick moustache, then disappeared wordlessly down the hall.

The receptionist appeared more flustered than I. She reached for the phone and dialed a number. “Susan,” she said, “Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s on his way down.”


  1. Ha! Great. Magical Realism finds a worthy target.

  2. ...reminds me of my experience in 1964 with W.H. Auden in Berlin.....

  3. Many years before you were stuck in the doors with Marquez, I read in Joseph Epstein's collection, Plausible Prejudices, that he (GGM) had said of his buddy Fidel Castro: "The man knows everything there is to know about seafood." Many publishers were trying to coax an auobiography out of Fidel, so I (at HarperCollins then) wrote to Castro to ask if he'd like to do a seafood cookbook. Sad to say, he never wrote back . . .