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September 12, 2004 - My life is like an episode of ...

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Book Wrangler


By Bob Patterson


For guys, driving around in a car is as enjoyable and therapeutic as shopping is for ladies.


On a recent Saturday morning, three of us were heading for an event in the San Fernando Valley.  The driver was having a catastrophic success getting us to our destination.  (That’s a polite way of saying we were lost.)  We were looking at the scenery and chatting about the secret things guys talk about when there are no females present.


I was describing a concept I have for a short story.  (Having the concept for a short story and actually having a short story that you are going to write are two very different things.)  I was doing a stream of consciousness routine and was lamenting the fact I needed to do some fact finding for the story that would involve learning about the art of telegraphy, which seems to be fading from contemporary culture.  Where can you find a telegrapher these days?


The guy riding shotgun became enthusiastic.  He had been a telegrapher in the Army. 


[Extraneous fact no. 1: he worked as an Army telegrapher for a month in Sedgwick Colorado.  I never knew there was such a town until he mentioned the fact that he had worked there as a telegrapher.  A Google search turns up the information that in the 2000 census, it had a population of 191.]


He asked me if he could use that concept.  “Sure.”  Why not?  I was stymied by it, so why not let him give it a try.  When folks talk about something unusual in their life, often they will offer the editorial comment that their life is beginning to resemble an episode from The Twilight Zone.  When George Clayton Johnson thinks that he can work your stuff into a story, well that’s another way of validating the premise that your life resembles an episode from the Twilight Zone, because George wrote eight episodes for the legendary TV series.


When talking about my life with a friend of forty years, my recalling some pronouncement about life back in the Sixties can meet with the response:  “Oh, yeah, I remember when you said that.  We thought you were full of shit.” 


With that in mind, I asked George if he did write the story I had sparked, could he please use my name for the main character so that when the story gets published, my pals from high school wouldn’t think that I had fabricated the link to the legendary writer.


It’s very different when someone who is world famous talks about their life.  You sit there at lunch, chewing your food, taking pictures, listening intently to the story, and thinking:  “Someday somebody who is writing a biography of George may talk to me and want to know exactly what George said.” 


Did he say that Charles Beaumont hated Oscar Wilde or was it George Bernard Shaw?


To a fact checker the statement about which one Beaumont hated must be precise and accurate.  To someone writing a biography of George, such minute details might be a thrilling bit of original material for their work.


When George talks about things that influenced his life, such as the circumstances relevant to a broken leg that resulted in a year of confinement in a hospital, fans from around the world would be extremely envious of the chance to hear him describe the events and explain how the year of restricted activities helped develop his imagination. 


On the recent expedition to the Twilight Zone event in the Valley, we got there eventually and the fans accorded George “rock star” treatment.  Later, his son joined us and when one of us didn’t hear what George had said, we asked his son what the words, which we had missed, were.  He apologized because, he explained, he tends to tune out all the Twilight Zone talk. 


(Just like some people we know never heard anything after a member of their family would start out:  “When I was on Guadalcanal….”)


Maybe we should tape record every conversation? 


[ Editor’s note - Photos of the Twilight Zone event in the Valley are here at In the Zone. ]




Last week, efforts to ascertain if some letters were written on a typewriter or were counterfeited via a computer were part of the current events discussions.


Probably there are not a lot of books that touch on old typewriters and collecting them, but if you are interested in that subject and are a Hemingway fan, you might want to make the effort to locate a book called The Hemingway Hoax by Joe Haldeman ($3.95 cover price on the Avon Books paperback edition that is copyrighted 1990.)


The book tells the efforts of a Hemingway scholar who uses his expertise to conjure up the Hemingway work that went missing when it was stolen or lost in a train station.  The scholar falls in with a charlatan and they begin the efforts to produce authentic forgeries of the missing documents.  The description of the efforts to duplicate exactly typewritten copies of Hemingway originals is fascinating. 


When we purchased the book we read it shortly thereafter and enjoyed it immensely. Based on our level of enjoyment on the original reading we would belatedly give it a 7 (on a 1 - 10, ten is best scale.)


Most Hemingway fans will enjoy this change of pace excursion into speculative fiction.


[One consideration should be obvious to the folks who are interested in determining if a document was computer generated or was produced on a typewriter:  Back then, the typewriting process produced indentations on the paper.  Hence touching and looking at the back of the original sheet of paper should immediately indicate whether the item in question was produced on a typewriter or not. If the original documents are not available for inspection, then all conclusions about the item will be cast in doubt.  Don’t most recent computer printers leave the product smooth on the reverse side?  Also, wouldn’t a microscopic examination of the printing indicate if it there was pixilation or a key strike?]




Before Clifford Irving became famous for his involvement with a manuscript that purported to be an authentic “as told to” biography of Howard Hughes, he wrote a book called Fake, which took an extensive look at the career of painter Elmyr de Hory.  The artist was very skilled at producing paintings and sketches, which masqueraded as works by Picasso.  The Irving book (as I recall) looked at the extensive research and methodology that was used to produce the items which fooled highly respected and authoritative experts.  Elmyr de Hory searched for, located, and used authentic old paper and ink.  Where would you go to get some paper that duplicated that used by Picasso?




One of the Regiment of Regular Readers who pays attention to our recommendations and spends money accordingly, is reminded that if a person enjoyed reading William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, they will, most likely, also enjoy his book Berlin Diary.




Fans of Jack Kerouac will want to know about Jack Kerouac: A Biography by Michael J. Dittman ($29.95 Greenwood Press.)  The Book Wrangler is swamped with bargain used books that haven’t been read yet, and we will be trying to prioritize our purchases of new books.  It’s doubtful we’ll get a chance to read and review this new item, so go Google the reviews that have been written if the subject interests you.


Hippie, by Barry Miles ($24.95 Sterling Publishing) is an illustrated history of the Hippie revolution from 1965 to 1971 and a companion soundtrack CD is also being offered.  Some bookstores ran a promotion discounting the price of the book to $19.67.  Groovy, huh?




Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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