[I submitted the following article months ago. Needless to say, the New York Times chose to go with the piece written by their literary critic, Dwight Garner instead.]
I heard through the literary grape vine that one of my favorite authors, John le Carré was coming out with a new book. A Delicate Truth is due out in May. Who better to include in My Little Publishing Company's "How Do You Do It?" series.
I'm not a complete idiot. I wrote ahead and asked him for an interview and when I got no response I took that for a yes, knowing how reserved the Brits can sometimes be. Since I had no specific time or place for a meeting with the author, I put together a very clever plan. I knew Le Carré had a fondness for fox hunting and so I rented an authentic Lady's Victorian riding costume. Then I drove to St. Buryan a small village in Cornwall and stopping by the local stables, I arranged to hire a horse for the hunt.
"You wearin' that to ride in?" asked the stable man.
"Yes, do you like it?" I swirled around in my long skirt.
"It's a bloody hoot." He led out my horse for the day. "This here's Marshmallow. She's a bit light in the mouth, but you sez you rid plenty afore so you should be fine." He helped me up.
"Put your other leg over," he said.
"Oh, no," I said, "I'm riding side saddle."
"This here's just a regular huntin' saddle. You'll fall over the first fence and break your noggin," he said.
I joined the group of fellow foxhunters who were dressed in a much more conservative, albeit contemporary manner. We walked through the streets of St. Buryan. And it was there I spotted Le Carré standing on the sidewalk with the other spectators. He was deep in conversation with another man. Slipping off my steed (I do love alliteration) I led Marshmallow over to the great writer and introduced myself.
"Linda Urbach, CEO of My Little Publishing Company," I said extending my kid-gloved hand.
"Oh, yes, I seem to remember you wrote me a while back."
"I just wanted to do an interview with you for my series."
"Dwight Garner of the New York Times has beaten you to it, I'm afraid," he said indicating the man next to him. "But at least you'll be able to take in the hunt while you're here." He turned his tweedy back on me.
Mr. Garner proceeded to monopolize Le Carré by asking him all sorts of tedious questions about his background, his attitudes about current espionage and the London literary scene. Marshmallow shifted restlessly as the last of the riders walked through town. Finally, Garner excused himself and I had Le Carré to myself. I realized my time with him was limited so I got to the important issues first.
"Mr. Le Carré, why don't you capitalize the "l" in your name?" He shook his head. I heard the horn signaling the sighting of a fox and it was all I could do to keep hold of Marshmallow's reins.
"No one's ever asked me that before." I was pleased until he added, "That's a rather idiotic question. Do you have any others?" Luckily, I did.
"Do your eyebrows ever get in the way of your writing?" He had extremely long, thick eyebrows that threatened to obscure his vision. For some reason this last seemed to annoy him.
"Perhaps you'd better quit while you're ahead, Ms. Urbach." He turned to go.
"Wait, Mr. Le Carré. I was wondering if you might give me a blurb for my new novel." He turned and looked at me with interest.
"Is it a spy novel?"
"Well, no. Actually it's historical fiction."
"I'm afraid that wouldn't do at all. I'm known for my spy novels. It doesn't make sense for me to write a blurb about a totally different genre."
What a stickler he was. I suppose that's what made him the successful author he is today. But he had given me an idea.
"Then I'll make my next novel a spy novel."
"Fine, fine. I wish you luck with it."
"If you would just give me some of your leftovers." Marshmallow was prancing in place, anxious to be off.
"Old plots that you aren't going to use," I explained. He chuckled and then walked briskly away.
There was nothing left for me to do but get back on Marshmallow and join the hunt. Just as the stableman predicted, going over the first low fence, I fell off my horse and suffered a mild concussion. Which was wonderful because I now had something in common with Hillary. I couldn't wait to exchange concussion symptoms with her.
In conclusion, I had gone to considerable expense and effort to interview John le Carré only to find out that there is definitely a class system operating in literature in England. Still, the trip was worthwhile. My only real regret were all those annoying accent aigus that have to be added every single time you write his name. That and the small "l" are a bit of an affectation, to say the least.