I’ve been looking through the bound galleys of The George Gershwin Reader, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. I flipped through the bibliography and found a piece of mine, “The Fabulous Gershwin Boys,” published in the Washington Post 11 years ago. Nothing unusual about that, except…I don’t remember writing it. In fact, I don’t remember anything about it. I suppose it must have been a book review, but of what? Beats me.
You may not find this surprising for somebody who writes a lot of stuff, but I do. I’m not saying that I could sit down and write out a bibliography of my published pieces. Far from it. When I put together A Terry Teachout Reader out of my clip files last year, I was startled by how many articles I’d forgotten. Still, I recognized all of them as soon as I saw them on the page, and their contents came back to me instantly. Yet I have no memory whatsoever of having written a piece about George and Ira Gershwin for the Washington Post 11 years ago. That’s a definite sign of something or other, though I’d rather not think about what.
Incidentally, I’m quite prepared to be twitted for my vanity in having riffled through that bibliography in search of myself. I have an excuse of sorts: I have to check books I might possibly review to make sure they don’t mention me invidiously, which would create a conflict of interest were I then to write about them. (Yes, this has happened.) But the truth is simpler: I get a kick out of seeing my name in books I didn’t write. I may be 47, but in my heart I’m still a 20-year-old baby writer who marvels at the mysterious spectacle of his own name in print. I still remember the first time I turned up in The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, back in my undergraduate days. You have to be a natural-born library wonk to regard that as a great event, but I sure did.
The real sign that you’ve become a low-grade personage, I suppose, is when you pop up in other people’s memoirs. (This has happened to me twice.) Which reminds me of a funny story that I won’t bother to check because I like the way I remember it. Bill Buckley is supposed to have sent Norman Mailer a copy of his latest book, in which Mailer was mentioned. In the index, next to Mailer’s name, Buckley scribbled in the margin, “Hi!”