(Mr. Kotzwinkle: Should you ever run across this, thank you, and I’d love to hear from you.)
William Kotzwinkle‘s The Fan Man is my favorite novel, and even if it weren’t, it would be. You see, it was already my favorite novel when I was in grad school for the first time, and it had led me to other works of his, from the heartbreaking Doctor Rat to his short story collections Elephant Bangs Train and Jewel of the Moon. (Oddly, I have never read the books that probably earned him the most money — two novelizations — nor do I recall reading any installments of his successful children’s series about Walter the Farting Dog.)
So in any case, when a pretty young woman I had met one afternoon at an elevator near the U of KY post office rang me up out of the blue (on my birthday, as I watched the Bengals on Monday Night Football) and told me she was looking for a short story author who might be worthy of a paper for a class, I mentioned Kotzwinkle along with a few other writers I liked a lot. She told me she’d swing by my office with a couple of stories, and we could talk about them. I said that was fine.
She showed up the next afternoon with a story she had found. “It’s kind of weird,” she said. I looked at it — it was “Horse Badorties Goes Out”, the 1973 Esquire story that would become the beginning of The Fan Man. We talked about the story, and other things, and just over four years later, we got married, and our twentieth anniversary will be in two months and four days.
So, my favorite novel. It has become a favorite novel for others as well — I’ve lost three or four copies over the years after lending them to friends. I’ve come to accept this with a certain equanimity. If you’ve read the book, this seems appropriate, perhaps even inevitable. Like its protagonist, copies of the book seem destined to drift through outlandish circumstances.
Meanwhile, Kotzwinkle has kept writing, with work ranging from SF to a satire of the publishing industry and a suspenseful, wildly funny private eye novel. He became a favorite of my dad’s as well — I’m pleased to have made the introduction.
I was doing a bit of surfing today, and discovered that he has a website and a blog, with the latter even containing a scene “from Return of the Fan Man.” Go; visit; be entertained; perhaps even be led — however indirectly — to a true love.