Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Author Scott Heim
Author: William Johnson
May 28, 2012
Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at The Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.” Think of the column as sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org.
Every month readers can submit questions to a chosen LGBTQ author about love, work, and life, and the author will answer them to the best of their ability.
This month’s column is handled by celebrated author Scott Heim.
Heim attended the M.F.A. program in writing at Columbia University, where he wrote his critically acclaimed first novel, Mysterious Skin. HarperCollins published the book in 1996. Scott followed it with another novel, In Awe, in 1997. In 2008, his third novel, We Disappear was published by Harper Perennial.
Heim is currently editing the forthcoming First Time I Heard series—a succession of “books that collect short, first-person essays by musicians & writers [recounting] their ‘first time’ hearing a specific iconic musician or band.”
When should someone realistically give up on their dreams?
I moved to New York in my early twenties—just after college. I came here with the goal of being a big-time actress. Watch out Jodi Foster!
My career started off promisingly. I was cast in several off-Broadway shows and had walk-on roles in various TV shows (Hello Law and Order!!!). But now as I head into my mid-forties I find that I have spent more time catering then acting. I come home from serving platters of shrimp wrapped in bacon feeling defeated and depressed. I live in a tiny overpriced studio and often have trouble paying the rent. This city is so expensive, I rarely can afford to go out to do anything fun. I haven’t even booked an audition in a year. I’m thinking it might be time to pack it up, move back home to the Midwest, and maybe live a more modest and economically-minded lifestyle (real estate sales, etc… etc…).
When it is time to let the dream go and move on to ‘reality’?
Hi Dream Deferred–
I’m the first person to sigh and roll my eyes when I’m watching some TV show and I hear someone spout something like “never give up on your dreams.” A phrase like that has become a cliché, but I guess I do agree with it. There comes a time, though, when everyone has to find that balance between the loftiest of ambitions and hard reality. I certainly know what you mean by New York—I lived there for 11 years myself, and after a while I realized that I could still pursue artistic endeavors while living elsewhere, in a place with a lot more space for a lot less money. Of course, this is probably easier for me to say, as I’m a writer, and certain aspects of my career can be pursued without living in the big city. Would you consider moving elsewhere and pursuing theater or other acting opportunities that could still satisfy your creative side, even though they aren’t based in New York? You might think about all the other places you could live happily and still pursue the craft you love while not worrying constantly about ways to make ends meet. And you shouldn’t discount the success you’ve already had with landing acting roles—in a sense, you’ve already fulfilled many of your goals, just perhaps slightly more realistic versions of them.
I just started dating a guy whose musical taste is driving me crazy. He is an older man with the taste of a teenager: Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Flo Rida. I can’t with his music taste. I know I sound like a hipster douche, but if he had some ironic distance with his musical proclivities I could probably tolerate his love of LMAFO. But he really likes this manufactured crap. I try to slip some Stevie Wonder or Patti Smith in to his iTunes playlist but to no avail; it just won’t stick. He is stuck on top forty. He tells me that pop music makes him happy, that I am being judgmental, and that he does not force his musical taste on me. But I fear his love of top forty hides a deeper intellectual deficit. He is a very handsome, caring, and considerate guy, but I find his devotion to banal pop irksome.
Am I being a hipster douche? Should someone’s “bad” taste prevent me from exploring something deeper?
Top Forty Broke My Heart
Hi Top Forty–
I might not be the best person to ask on this one, as I’m a bit of a hipster douche myself when it comes to music. I’d be put off by your guy’s musical tastes, too, but I wouldn’t let that govern my feelings for him—unless these tastes that you disagree with also happen to show in his tastes in books and films and (maybe most importantly) people. The most telling sentence of your letter is “He is a very handsome, caring, and considerate guy”—that seems to be the thing you should be paying the most attention to. He probably hates your music, too, but if he’s most concerned with your personality, then you should stick with him. Just turn the dial to NPR when you’re in the car, or put on headphones when he’s dancing to Justin Bieber in the house.
I am sleeping with one of my ex’s friends and my ex does not know about it. I broke up with my ex six months ago (after dating a year). We broke up because of her lack of ambition. She is kind of a stoner. We remained friendly, but not really friends. I hooked up with her friend after meeting at a bar a couple of months ago and the sex is hot!
My ex’s friend and I aren’t dating; we are just having sex—but all my friends say this wrong and I should cut it off. I think my ex would be hurt—but just how long after a breakup do her feelings stop being my responsibility. Her friend—who I am sleeping with—says it’s okay, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her and really the sex is so mind blowing hot right now. I know there is some golden rule that we should not sleep with an ex’s friend, but part of me feels that after a breakup we are free to sleep with who we choose. Should I really stop sleeping with her friend?
The Slutty Ex.
Dear Slutty Ex,
Keep sleeping with the friend. You’re having a terrific time, and you’re no longer with your ex. There are no golden rules when it comes to these things, so I say go for it—you’ll regret it later if you don’t.
–Writer (who has also been a slutty ex in the past)