Jonathan Lethem, who used to be an SF writer but now has levitated into the stratosphere of literary mainstream, has a story in the December 17 issue of The New Yorker. The story, called "The King of Sentences," is an absurdist treatment of the extreme reverence that young writers can feel for the authors they admire. The story made me laugh out loud. Like all absurdism, it starts with a nugget of truth and inflates it though concentration and exaggeration. Lethem, a wonderful writer himself, does this with such ridiculous and yet sharp details that the story is a delight.
And the "nugget" is very real. When we writers eventually meet authors they've idealized for decades, we can act a bit nutty. The first time I met Ursula LeGuin, I couldn't stop babbling. On and on and ON, until I'm sure she doubted that I was really Nancy Kress, or sane. A friend of mine told me she was too awed to say anything whatsoever to Joyce Carol Oates. Another friend related that, standing in the back of a room to listen to Ray Bradbury, tears pricked his eyes.
A recent poll of teenager found that a huge majority could not name one person they considered a "hero." I don't think that we fortunate people who love books have that problem. We just need to figure out how to look "normal" in the presence of heroes.
Or maybe not. Lethem's characters end up abandoned in an EconoLodge by their idol, scorned, naked -- and happy.