Registrato: 08/10/19 15:41
|Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) , the famous British novelist who wrote so much -- ?Of Human Bondage? probably his masterwork -- once said: ?The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic, and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them, for the most part, humble, tolerant, and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter.? I personally say such words are the absolute truth , having had the singular opportunity of spending time with Ms. Andre Norton.
Nearly 6 years ago, while surfing the Internet, I stumbled across an announcement of a Grand Opening ? the genre library of the world-renown fantasy and science fiction writer, Andre Norton. Many were and are unaware that Andre Norton was a female, called ?The Lady? for her elegance and grace by her countless friends and fans. The name of the library to which Ms. Norton would grant access, on request: High Hallack. Imagine my surprise when I saw that High Hallack was located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, only a few hours drive from where I live in southwest Virginia.
So I sent an email asking for permission to come to High Hallack for three days , and received a most gracious, almost immediate response from The Lady herself. She even invited me into her home as a guest. I replied that, not wanting to impose, I would find other quarters, but was so pleased to be able to peruse the library.
This was just before my 55th birthday, and I felt that I needed to do something special ?just for me?. Actually, I'd been feeling that way for years. I'm a very-much-failed horror genre novelist (nothing in print so far, but many dollars thrown to the skies thanks to bogus literary agents ? there ought to be a law , but unfortunately, there isn't). Surely there would be magic at High Hallack, and maybe I'd learn something that could turn the tide of my disappointing literary foray.
And so I arrived on a sunny, steamy summer day. Ms. Norton resided on a quiet tree-lined suburban street in Murfreesboro, in a lovely unassuming ranch home. High Hallack adjoined ? a three-bay restored garage with air conditioning and comfortable accommodations set in the rear of Norton's house.
Without going into details too personal to relate without permission from Ms. Norton herself, I can say that rarely in my life have I been greeted with so warm or unconditional a welcome from anyone. Cats roamed her house ? many cats. Statues of Bastet, the Egyptian Cat Goddess, abounded. The home was filled with rich , warm colors ? overstuffed furniture, rugs, tapestries, and many beautiful possessions acquired over a lifetime. For when I met Andre Norton, she was 87 years of age. But for a special ramp that had been constructed at the rear of her home and the use of a walker, her years belied her age, for Ms. Norton was a timeless thinker and talker. One of her pronouncements for something she found excellent was ?Just dandy!? What a wonderful conversationalist, and so generous with her stories and experiences! She was a Grand Lady , indeed, but also a most remarkable woman. I sensed that she might have been just a little vain about her beautiful red hair. She enjoyed going to the hairdresser and ?keeping up appearances?. She was then fond of bright tentcaftan dresses in interesting colors and patterns.
And she said, ?You are the first person who has asked to use High Hallack. We hope you are good luck, and will break the bad spell of so few writers wanting to come.?
For High Hallack contained Ms. Norton's own personal library -- thousands of volumes on every arcane subject imaginable, and quite fascinating. For three days I plowed through books and took assiduous notes. Each of the late afternoons I was there, I had a conversation with Andre Norton, certainly the 'treat? of the journey.
We exchanged Christmas cards and a few letters. And then, as usually happens , life went on. Until today I looked up High Hallack on the Internet, only to find out that it closed in 2004. And then I learned that Andre Norton passed on, March 17, 2005, at age 93. Having personally experienced her sharp wit, warmth, and kindness however briefly, I was filled with an unbearable sadness , which prompted me to write these thoughts.
Credited with well over 200 books, Andre Norton remains one of the most widely read writers in the world today, her work translated into dozens of languages. Her books were meticulously researched, right down to the smallest detail, because she firmly believed that an author has a solemn responsibility to his readers to promulgate accuracy.
Having had the great privilege of meeting ?The Lady? will remain one of my life's most memorable events.
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