Thursday, October 16, 2008

Degrees of Separation, Memoirists Edition

As the perspicacious Mead pointed out in a comment to my Oh the Glory of It All review, it's entirely appropriate that I have moved on to read Tales of the City, which contains lightly fictionalized versions of some of the people in Wilsey's memoir. (Wilsey's mom, Pat Montandon, becomes Armistead Maupin's character "Prue Giroux," a dilettantish woman who holds "salons" in her Russian Hill penthouse.)

I'd noticed this, and also another connection, which I think is even stranger--linking the three memoirs I have read so far this year: Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey.

I knew the latter two authors were connected--they are friends and colleagues at McSweeney's--but you can imagine my surprise when I got four pages into Wilsey's book and came across Jessica Mitford's name. Turns out that she was a frequent guest at Pat Montandon's salons! Wilsey, who was just a boy at the time, describes Mitford as "an old British woman with huge round glasses who proclaimed 'When I die I've given instructions that I want to be buried like this,' and then pulled one corner of her mouth up and dragged the other one down and eyed the other guests (the mayor, a plastic surgeon, Agnes Moorehead, Shirley Temple). 'I want to make sure you all check on it. That's the way I want to look.'"

The "six degrees of separation" theory has been largely discredited but this is enough to make you believe in it again, huh? And since I met Dave Eggers at a book signing once, that puts me somewhere in this web too. Is this the "lattice" that he writes about in his memoir? Now when I walk through San Francisco I feel myself in the footsteps of all these real and even fictional characters who have convened here in combinations that might happen nowhere else...

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