The recent Anne Rice drama reminds me of my favorite story about her; now it can be told.
My father was a novelist. At one point he shared an agent with Ms. Rice; this agent is now retired, has changed her name (literally), and is enjoying a relaxed life in the South of France farming peonies or something.
Anyway, Agent Lady was out to dinner with Anne and her entourage, who were one-upping each other with sycophantic compliments on her latest, which was I think the second vampire book at the time, or maybe the third. “I just can’t believe your talent, it’s so refreshing” and “Your books are world-changing” etc. etc.
Finally one of them said “You know, I think it’s going to be recognized at some point that you’re really one of the top authors in the literary canon. You’re better than Shakespeare, you know.”
Ms. Rice acknowledged this in a gracefuly, queenly manor and the rest of the table nodded happily. Agent Lady didn’t. “You’re really good, Anne,” she said, “but Shakespeare stands alone. I think it’s too much to compare any living writer to someone of that stature.”
“So,” said the vampire writer, “you don’t find my work superior to Shakespeare?”
“No. I couldn’t honestly say that. It just wouldn’t be right.”
“I’m not sure that someone with that sentiment is the right agent for me,” intoned Ms. Rice. The shocked Anne-posse was silent. Agent Lady stood up. “You’re right, Anne. I’m not.” And she walked out. And she wasn’t her agent any more, which probably lost her hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. But she’s a happier person today for it, I bet.