Thursday, 15 November 2007
The Paradox of Fame
What must it be like to be famous like J.K. Rawlings? Now she’s written all those Barry Potter books, she can’t even go out in the street without being mobbed. That’s why as an author I’m keeping a low profile and not pushing my own novel, “Thai Girl” too hard.
I was in Bangkok at the bottom of Soi Thonglor the other day with Cat and friends and we’d just had one of those round Italian cheese things on toast when a tall Thai man came up and asked if I was the novelist, Andrew Hicks. He then asked if he could have his photo taken with me and as he was really pleasant and friendly, how could I say no.
At least I think that’s what happened… it was all done through Cat in Thai and she never explains things to me properly. I’m not sure who he was exactly but they all seemed quite excited about the whole incident and kept talking about tennis.
It’s happened to me like that once before when I got chatting to a nice English guy called Dave in Asia Books. He took our picture together and later emailed it to me. He’s kept in touch since then and I guess you could call him my fan club.
My novel’s done pretty well so I’m a bit nervous about getting sucked into the celebrity circuit like Rawlings has. Okay, my sales aren’t in the same league as the Bible and Shakespeare and I admit Rawlings has now sold more than me, but you never know what’s about to happen in the world of literature. This year’s Booker winner was a big surprise! Instant fame!
Everyone wants to be famous nowadays but when they make it as a celebrity, they can’t always deal with the downsides, like being mobbed in public all the time. That’s the paradox of fame.
Something surprised me once though. I was crossing the concourse at Paddington station in London and realized I was behind Norman Lamont, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was running for a train. He’s pretty distinctive as he looks like a badger in a suit but not a soul seemed to recognise him or even to turn their head.
On the other hand it must be tough as a politician if you can’t even take your trousers off without people gawping at your interstices. I was once in the changing rooms of a sailing club in Cowes disrobing for a race when I realized the hairy legs next to me belonged to the then serving Conservative prime minister.
I now know I could have been at risk in this predicament. I shouldn’t mention his name, but let me give you a clue… like J.F. Kennedy and Charles de Gaulle, he was the one they named London airport after. By chance, some years later I rode with him in the back of his chauffeur driven car (true!) but I didn’t have the nerve to tell him where we’d met before.
I know for a fact that J.K. Rawlings has had similar brushes with fame. By coincidence, she was at the University of Exeter in the South West of England at the same time as me, she a lowly undergraduate, I on the Parnassus of academe. We were even working in exactly the same place as Law and English Lit. were both housed in the Amory Building.
Just think… we might have passed each other in a crowded corridor, rushing not for a train but to a lecture. And of course she didn’t know who it was she’d just brushed shoulders with… she didn’t know it was me.
But that was years ago and I hadn’t yet written “Thai Girl”!