April 8, 2015
Neil Simon, my Hero
After I read his first autobiography I wrote him a letter because I loved it so much. Some time later I received a personal note from him, typewrittten (remember typewriters?) on blue personalized stationery. He said, "I just wanted to thank you for your very nice letter. I'm glad you enjoyed "Rewrites" so much. That book has meant a lot to me." He ended with, "I appreciated your writing to me," and he hand-wrote his signature. That was in 1997.
Some years later I went to a book signing for the 2nd autobiography and when he signed my book I told him that I had written to him and was thrilled beyond words when he answered me. He looked up, surprised, and said, "That must have been some letter. I hardly ever respond personally to fan mail."
Do you know the definition of kvelling?
I want to make a promise: if anyone writes me a fan letter (yes, email counts) I promise to respond. I think there's nothing better than hearing from people who relate to, or are touched by, your work. Maybe it gets old when you become famous and have millions of fans but somehow I can't picture getting tired of it.
When Neil Simon was being interviewed by James Lipton he said, "Every time I write a play it’s the beginning of a new life for me. Today as I listen to you read excerpts from these plays and talk about them, it makes me feel nostalgic about how wonderful those days were—but I’m enjoying these days of writing, even though I see that the sun is setting."
Let's hope it doesn't set for a long while.
Read the entire interview in The Paris Review.