Outrage at Starbucks over a Book (Jack Engelhard)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on February 21, 2012 0 Comments


Over the years interviewers have asked me if I’d ever caught strangers on a train (or anywhere) reading any one of my books – how romantic! — and the answer has always been no… until this morning at Starbucks. I was just sitting there over my coffee and donut minding my own business and doing some writing but I could not help overhearing a thirty-something couple discussing – heatedly – “Indecent Proposal.”


They had their Ipads ready to what I gathered was the Kindle edition my novel…and they were obviously well-read and quite intellectual.


I was not about to interrupt nor introduce myself as the author… what people think of my books is none of my business.


When it comes to his own books, the author is the last to know what he’s written; it’s for the reader to decide.


But it is quite an experience finding yourself under review. (I had the impression that she was a reviewer for some website or newspaper. If so, we’ll see what comes out.) Can’t help but eavesdrop when people are at the very next table and occasionally SHOUTING.


The conversation between these two went like this:


He: “But would you do it?”


She: “That’s not the point. We’re talking literature.”


He: “I thought we’re talking about the power of money versus love.”


She: “Not quite. We’re talking about the power of temptation, which the author himself says is even more powerful than sex. Sex is nothing, he says. Temptation is everything. It’s about how true we are to our own ethical standards and how, given the right circumstances, how easily we can be bought. It’s what makes the novel so timeless. This stuff goes on every day. Can anyone resist temptation?”


He: “I’d like to think I can. I think he’s dead wrong, your Engelhard.”


She: Oh, we’re all so virtuous? Have you been reading the headlines? That goes for politics, sports, entertainment, business, sex, you name it, we’ve all got a price, which happens to be a direct quote from the novel, that scene with the corrupt casino honcho. In that sense the novel is quite biblical. Did you read the book?”


He: “Yeah, I read the bible.”


She: “Indecent Proposal, silly.”


He: “I’m at the sex scene. I admit it’s powerful.”


She: “Maybe too powerful for you?”


He: “I do picture you in that scene and it makes me jealous. I think Engelhard takes too many liberties. I am not for sale. Are you?”


She: “Get your mind OFF SEX.”


He: “The author didn’t! Did YOU read it?”


She: “A dozen times and I got more out of it than sex. You missed the whole novel.”


He: “Sure beats the hell out of the movie.”


She: “So we agree on that. So we should also agree that the greatest novels ever written were about infidelity…like Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I read someplace that Indecent Proposal ranks right alongside those two…the novel, of course, not the movie, which only touched the surface of the book. In fact, Indecent Proposal speaks more to our times than even those great novels.”


He: “Ridiculous. I liked the movie and if the movie was too shallow perhaps the novel was too deep, if you know what I’m talking about…”


She: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. ZERO. The novel is rich in so many levels and Hollywood washed all that out.”


He: So it’s a woman’s book.”


She: “No, it’s more a guy’s book. Dig into the fight scenes….and how these two guys are in a battle to the death over a woman. YOU surely can identify.”


[My my. What was THAT all about!]


He: “Last night you said it compares to Gatsby, which everyone agrees IS the great American novel.”


She: “So is Indecent Proposal.”


He: “You must be kidding.”


She: “If you’d get your mind off sex you’d know what I’m talking about. We both read that NPR review which said the book is a gut-wrenching study on love and TRUST.”


He: “Are you comparing Engelhard to F. Scott Fitzgerald?”


She: “Yes, absolutely.”


He: “Sounds like you would do it…with the author. Go ahead. I heard he lives around here.”


She: “I hear he’s a recluse, if he’s still alive.”


Right about here I took this as my cue and left.


There were moments, during the debate, when I wanted to jump in (“reveal” myself) but I am never as good as my books.
















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