My New Boyfriend

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I'm totally in love with my brand new boyfriend.

OK, this guy I'm in love with isn't REALLY my boyfriend--not yet, anyway, because we've never had a conversation. Not only that, but after the events that made me fall in love with him, I ran into one of my friends, who said, "Wasn't he GREAT? All the women at my table decided we were going to marry him."

Which made me feel better, sort of: at least I'm not some overwrought, self-deluded stalker, assuming after one utterly charming performance by an utterly charming man that he and I were going to spend our entire lives together: No, I was a NORMAL and REASONABLE groupie, the kind of woman who thinks, "I really, really, really want to spend some quality time with that man, so that he can decide ON HIS OWN that we are destined to live out the rest of our lives together, in noisy, intellectually stimulating, conjugal bliss."

But it also made me feel worse because I realize just how much competition I have: the world's majority of literate straight women.

I'm talking, of course, about the INCREDIBLE Pico Iyer, who gave a lunchtime talk on Friday and a Saturday night reading at the NonfictioNow conference I recently attended in Iowa. (I am happy to report that conference organizers promised it would be held again in two years--I can't wait!) Pico claimed his talk was impromptu, but it was more coherent and eloquent than many well-revised speeches I've heard. His reading was equal parts fascinating unrehearsed reflection and well-crafted prose: he read four short pieces, including an excerpt from an essay about losing his home and everything in it to a devastating fire (the first essay from the collection The Global Soul.)

Mr. Iyer is a slender gentleman in his late 40s, of Indian descent, who speaks with a slight British accent and incredible graciousness. He is particularly well known for his travel writing and has called himself "a global village on two legs." I admit I didn't bother to introduce myself to him--I couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't fawning and obvious--but I know that if I had, he would have shaken my hand and smiled at me with genuine beneficent warmth as he listened to me tell me how much I admired him and his writing.

I will admit as well that I've never read a single one of his books, a problem I intend to rectify very, very soon. But I have been a fan of his work for a good long time nonetheless. In the summer of 1988, on the final page of the June 13 issue of TIME magazine, I found a marvelously wrought essay written "In Praise of the Humble Comma," arguing that "punctuation, in fact, is a labor of love." I tore it from the magazine and have saved a copy for 17 years. This was my first introduction to Pico, and, I think, the first time I sensed how utterly captivating prose nonfiction can be: All those lovely phrases he used! The range of knowledge he could marshal in supporting and explaining his ideas! The care and refinement with which that acute sensibility probed, keenly and widely and deeply, a subject as commonplace as the comma! Nothing but a love letter had ever brought me so much pleasure in the course of one short page--though of course the essay was a love letter, not to me, but to good writing. But it felt like a love letter to me, because I love good writing myself, love to encounter it, love to hear it praised.

I now believe that essay is one reason I eventually wound up studying and teaching nonfiction. Whenever I have come across Pico's name in a magazine since then (and it has happened countless times, because he writes so well for so many publications) I read the article no matter what its topic, because I know it will be good. I can't believe I haven't bothered to buy and read all his books, but at least I have recognized the error of my ways while there's still plenty of time for correction.

For the record: I'm not a jealous lover: my adoration for Pico is not the selfish type that wants to keep the best of him for me and me alone. No, I am a generous disciple, wanting others to experience the rapturous pleasure of knowing my beloved. So LISTEN UP: If you EVER get a chance to hear this man speak, TAKE IT! I predict you'll fall as thoroughly in love as I and the other women at this conference did. Watch for his names in magazines and newspapers, and BUY HIS BOOKS! You won't be disappointed by anything, except the fact that he's not already your best friend.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on November 14, 2005 10:29 AM.

Greetings from Iowa was the previous entry in this blog.

Hopeless Cases and Lost Causes is the next entry in this blog.

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