Robert Chatham

April 13, 2012

Post #2807 – 20120413

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

The first time I read Lizard Music was over twenty years ago, when I was in fifth grade. It felt like it had been written for me. I don’t think I knew what nostalgia was at the time, but I fell in love with the idea that out there was a rich, undiscovered past waiting for me to find it. I wanted a summer like Victor’s; I wanted my parents to go on vacation for a week so that I could stay up late watching old movies and wake up early to explore the city.

I spent a lot of time at the library. Back then, before everything was online (and with the Memphis library card catalog being woefully incomplete), there wasn’t an easy way to find out about new books by my favorite authors. We had three nearby libraries; every week, we’d go to a different library and look for new Pinkwater books. My favorite (both then and now) was the Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death. I remember a description of a baked potato, a hunk of butter, and a thumb that’s stuck with me over half my life.

Every once in a while, I’d find something new. I remember picking up Alan Mendelson for the first time in an ancient library edition – just a hardcover book without a dust jacket. It was one of the few books I read completely tabula rasa, without any idea of what was to come, and it was absolutely wonderful. Every time I found a new Pinkwater book, it was like meeting a friend again; every character was part of a bizarre family that fit together because they didn’t fit anywhere else. I saw myself in Walter and Victor and Leonard Neeble. When I first started to make up my stories, like every other aspiring writer, I aped my favorite author – so I ended up with a bunch of Pinkwater clone stories.

Thanks for writing. My wife and I had our first child last year, and when she’s old enough, I’ll read Lizard Music to her. And I still think of Walter Galt’s dad every time I eat an avocado.

Daniel replies:

What can I say to rich praise like that, except thanks and God bless you? (I started life in Memphis too).