Sick and confined to bed this weekend, I gazed aimlessly at the television during the few short hours I managed to stay awake hoping for some distraction from the painful knot in my throat. At some point I switched away from TLC’s Cake Boss marathon for a second, only to catch Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold screeching at someone or another (Kevin Connolly, maybe? I’m not really sure, in my Theraflu-induced haze I wasn’t processing much). Which gets me thinking, now that I’m less fuzzy-brained, about agents and why, despite the stress of it all–particularly during a difficult and uncertain time for this business–I became one myself.
First things first, let me dispel the myth that agents are screeching Ari Gold-like banshees. Obviously he’s a caricature of an agent (even if he is based on a real person). But aside from that, we in publishing like to think that the industry is a bit more genteel than Hollywood.
So if I don’t get to yell at people on the phone all day long, you ask, why did I become an agent? Well, it just started with an old-fashioned case of wide-eyed idealism and took off from there. As with many of the people you’ll find populating publishing, some of the most memorable moments of my life involved books. Those moments led me to define myself as an ardent book-lover. For instance, when I was five my neighbors would come over to my house, and I would feel very important as I read to them all aloud. We went through the entire Disney series that my mother had been purchasing one by one at the grocery store. When I was in the fourth grade and trying to plow through as many books as I could in Mrs. Rosen’s library, I was reading one afternoon on the bus ride home and was so absorbed that I kept on reading despite intense motion sickness and had to get off at another kid’s stop just to puke. I got back on after the driver nearly pulled away and resumed reading. When I first read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in junior high it almost made my head spin and fall off. I was enamored. I wanted to marry Jonathan Swift. Who would think an essay about eating babies could do that to a person? There are a multitude of these small, seemingly unimportant moments, but I won’t embarrass myself further by trying to relay them in any earnest sort of way. All I can say is that now, for many, many tiny reasons, I really love books.
And that love affair blossomed into a so-called useless degree in English literature. One that many students pursue, wondering “What am I supposed to do with this?”
I knew I wanted to do something practical. I knew I wanted to work in publishing and be a cog in the great machine that produced those things I was so impressed by. So I did what you do when you start out in publishing–I got an internship.
The business turned out to be far more complex and fascinating than I could have ever imagined and led me to want to stick around. Especially now, as it undergoes significant changes, it will be interesting to see how things progress. The things I wouldn’t really say aloud anymore (but appear to have less of a problem putting in print) are still there. But now what drives me is the added bonus of helping clients pursue their goals and guide them through the process. It’s rewarding and fun, even if it’s challenging.
But I can’t be the only one with these types of memories–and I certainly shouldn’t be the only one to admit them! What small moments led to your love of books?