Ever since I began reading adult fiction, I have been interested in anecdotes about famous writers. The principal reason for this was that in learning about writers I hoped I could somehow absorb their skills and derive directives for leading a literary life. I also simply enjoyed the stories.
For example, some readers wonder why Edna St. Vincent Millay had a man's middle name, and a saint's one at that. As it happens, Millay's mother had a brother named Charles Buzzell. One chilled February day, Uncle Charles, ill with fever, was on the docks in New Orleans. He watched as cotton was loaded on a ship bringing the cargo to New York. Buzzell went on board for a closer look, found a bale of hay, and promptly fell asleep. The crew didn't notice him, and he awoke only after the ship had set sail with the hatches battened down. His screams couldn't be heard, and so he was locked below decks for nine days without food or water. When he was finally discovered, near death, he was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in New York where, against all odds and the expectations of his doctors, he survived. His grateful sister wanted to memorialize the hospital, and so she used the saint after whom the hospital was named as her daughter's middle name.
Some literary anecdotes happened to me. When I was young, I lived in Sag Harbor, on Long Island, at the same time as John Steinbeck. The author was then researching his novel The Winter of Our Discontent. One the ways he did this was to visit my father's variety store, especially on rainy days, stretch out on the floor, lean back against the magazine rack, and observe the customers. When one interested him, he'd wait for the customer to leave and ask my father all about the person. My father, who had been born in Sag Harbor and served on a political committee with Steinbeck, knew everyone in town, knew their quirks and ancestors, their desires and their faults. Steinbeck heard their language, absorbed the stories and gossip about them, and began his construction of an American character.
Once a high school friend of mine and some pals of his broke into Steinbeck's house. I assume they thought the famous author would have a lot of money. They didn't get much and discovered that the heavy television set they had taken was beyond their ability to carry. They dumped in in a local pond. They were quickly apprehended, but Steinbeck refused to press charges, and they were set free. I asked my friend why Steinbeck had let them go. Neither one of us could figure it out, unaccustomed as we were to the emotional generosity possible from a heart as big as Steinbeck's.