I have to share this just because it made me snicker. 🙂
In the current issue of Smithsonian, July 2009, there’s an article called “Nikita in Hollywood” about Nikita Kruschev’s visit to the US in 1959. I wasn’t born then so I’d heard only vague mentions of the event, and found the article interesting and entertaining both. Very historical as well as readable, good photos, etc.
There’s one bit, though, describing a conversation at the banquet held in Hollywood for Kruschev and his party, along with as many Hollywood notables as could be shoehorned into the banquet room. The visitors were scattered among the tables, spreading the wealth, so everyone got a chance to talk to a couple of famous actors or directors or whatever. One conversational snippet:
As the waiters delivered lunch — squab, wild rice, Parisian potatoes and peas with pearl onions — Charlton Heston, who’d once played Moses, attempted to make small talk with Mikhail Sholokhov, the Soviet novelist who would win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965. “I have read excerpts from your works,” Heston said.
“Thank you,” Sholokhov replied. “When we get some of your films, I shall not fail to watch some excerpts from them.”
I had to laugh, and give Sholokhov a fist-pump for that. I mean, it’s clear Heston was trying to make polite conversation, so he gets a brownie point for good intentions, but seriously, would he have been flattered if someone said they’d watched his movies’ trailers but not the movies themselves?
The primary reason for excerpts to be circulated, and certainly the only reason I can think of why they’d be put in the way of someone who’s a reader but not in the business nor an academic, is as promo. You read the excerpt and then if you like it you read the entire work it was taken from. Telling a writer you’ve read excerpts is essentially saying that you weren’t interested enough or impressed enough with said excerpts to actually read the books. That’s not any kind of a compliment, and as someone who works in an analogous business, one might’ve expected Heston to twig to that.
Great come-back from Sholokhov, though. 😀