Bill Browne

May 13, 2008

Post #2404 – 20080513

Dear Daniel,

I used your book, ‘Young Adults’, as part of an Extension English presentation on ‘Acts of Reading and Writing’. Taking on what I imagine to be your persona, I harangued and harassed the other ‘author’ (Alberto Manguel) for his veneration of the author at the expense of the reader.

My argument was that your work is ‘centrifugal’, that is it grants power to the reader to interpret as he or she sees fit. I used the example of the sentence that ‘Young Adults’ ends on, “To be continued in Chapter 23456765432: The Return of Rosenschlag”. With an arbitrary ending like that, the reader is free to tell the ‘rest’ of the story themselves.

Also, is that sentence as meaningless as it seems, or is it a heavily-veiled reference to Paul Zindel – who, Google tells me, wrote about a ‘Mrs Rosenschlag’? I hope it is so, since it would serve as a final piece of meaning in a meaningless critique of a meaningless story.

The speech continued with you describing ‘A Reader of Dostoevsky’ as ‘possibly narcoleptic’, and admitting that you wrote the Shapiro Stories in ‘Dead End Dada’. I’m starting to doubt that you wrote those stories, though I’m convinced Ken Kelman is a pseudonym.

The speech ended with my companion and I creeping out of the room while prearranged audience shills argued and discussed your Buttoniad ‘spontaneously’.

The class got a huge kick out of the photo on the back of your ‘Yogic Levitation’ (also in the photo gallery).

I might not have written to you, except for your comment that “how you read it is more important than how I wrote it”, and I recognised how close that is to the view that our class has adopted.



Daniel replies:

Dear Bruce --

Ken Kelman is a real person, which is to say he appears to be corporeal and animated, and has a personality, and he, not I, wrote the afterword to which you refer. Also I did not write the Kevin Shapiro stories represented as having been sent in by readers--they were sent in by readers--and the practice of writing additional Kevin Shapiro chapters goes on to this day as evidenced by certain websites with which I have nothing to do. So you are right to doubt that I wrote the stories, and wrong to doubt the reality of Ken Kelman, (though many people have allowed they would feel better if he were a figment). No piece of writing is meaningless. Some pieces of writing are indecipherable. All writing is syncretic. No author should be assumed to know the meaning of what he wrote. None of this bears thinking about. In the past I have denied writing the Young Adults book. I am not saying I did, and I am not saying I didn't. Should you have occasion to repeat the performance, and ""take on my persona,"" I can tell you that I am usually described as sweet and adorable.