Monday, February 26, 2007

Who is my audience?

Riva Djinn was fortunate enough to spend last Friday afternoon with the novelist and film critic Marcy Dermansky. This happy encounter would never have taken place if Riva hadn’t indulged her strange urge to read books in unlikely places throughout New York City.

Last December, Riva was reading Marcy’s novel Twins while sitting at a bar called Verlaine on Rivington Street. She sat for hours, reading the novel by candlelight and sipping dirty martinis.

By the time Riva finished the novel, she looked up and there was the story’s creator in the flesh. There she was—Marcy Dermansky, chatting with a group at the next table. The group shared tapas and swapped gossip.

Riva makes it a rule never to get too close to writers, but dirty martinis mixed with chance encounters sometimes have a way of relieving Riva of her allergy to wordsmiths. That’s what happened in this case, and Riva was not only willing to approach Marcy Dermansky, but was even willing to give the author a pat on the back, if it came to that.

“Can I buy you lunch sometime?” Riva asked while Marcy signed her copy of Twins.

So, last Friday they went to Café Lalo on 83rd Street. They sipped soup as Marcy gave generous answers to all Riva’s questions. Riva asked Marcy why none of the interviews or book reviews really mention the lesbian themes that Dermansky plays with in this novel. Marcy said she didn’t know why Sue’s sexuality is a topic that rarely comes up for discussion. Riva wondered why Marcy would dare write homoerotic material. Well, during Marcy’s writing process, Sue and Lisa Markman plunged into physical intimacy, and Marcy just decided to keep the homoeroticism in the novel because it worked to move the story along.

Riva listened carefully, hoping Marcy would not divulge too many deep, dark creative writing mysteries. It was hard enough for Riva to keep from falling off her chair and into a fit of sneezing. She didn’t know how her body would react to hearing unwelcome details about the writing craft. Riva did not wonder why she was getting herself involved in yet another one of these itchy situations. These situations just fell into her lap the longer she stewed in her unemployed status. But Marcy did not disappoint Riva or set off more severe allergies. This made Riva comfortable enough to dare reveal to Marcy what she did, or used to do, for a living.

“I am an out-of-work genie.” Riva said. She gave Marcy her business card in case a novelist and film critic should ever need three wishes granted. Marcy humored Riva and was reminded, once again, that a writer can never completely answer this question: “Who is my audience?”

That afternoon, the waitress at Café Lalo was not attentive to Marcy and Riva. When they wanted to order dessert, the waitress snubbed them. When they were ready for the check, the woman affected being overworked and underpaid. Riva wanted to lean closer to Marcy and say, “Shall we dash?” Instead, Riva paid up and left a magnanimous tip.


Well, Marcy couldn't have known this, but Riva and the waitress had just enjoyed an intimate and short affair only the weekend before. Riva met the waitress at a dance club on Columbus Avenue. The next day, the waitress—whose name was Gina—invited Riva to go horseback riding on the bridal path in Central Park. Riva enjoyed a leisurely Sunday afternoon with Gina. But Gina eventually said she would never endure a long-term relationship with a woman who was so tied up in old-world lore and superstition. Gina just didn’t believe Riva could grant wishes. “Well, suppose I enter a different line of work…?” Riva started to say, but Gina nudged her horse behind his girth, and she rode off. That’s when the snub-job started.

Riva couldn’t bring herself to reveal all this relationship drama to Marcy because Riva assumed that writers write all the dirt about everybody they meet. And if there is one thing that makes a genie itch more than being physically close to a writer that is worrying over whether or not the genie’s story will be told.

Today, Riva sits in the waiting room at the Allergist’s office. She’s reading Anthony Lane’s Nobody’s Perfect. She’s hoping (nay, wishing) she won’t encounter Anthony Lane because book critics give her severe migraines.

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