The Love Chorus

(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.



About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Family, Literature, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Love Chorus

  1. Jeff says:

    I was trying to figure out why Kotzwinkle’s name was so familiar, and then I saw he wrote the E.T. novelization and its sequel, both of which I read and enjoyed as a kid. (I recall buying both at KMart.) Now you’ve got me curious to check out more of his work; I love writers with his wild range.

  2. Anne Brannen says:

    Ok I’m sold. Ordered a used copy off amazon.

  3. nightfly says:

    I have read the ET novelization. I can even remember a few passages. Several spots in the book, he focused in on one of the incidental characters’ POV, instead of blandly reciting the action in the omniscient voice. Early on, it’s the mother, listening to the Temptations and walking downstairs to check on the D&D game her children are playing – she hears Elliot talking about running ahead of some goblins, shooting arrows at them. Eventually, they investigate the noise of the arrival of the title character, dismiss it (save Elliot), and “proceeded to eat the stepped-on pizza” they had dropped in their haste.

    Later we get a look at the mindset of the cop (a sergeant, IIRC) driving one of the pursuing cars towards the end of the story. The cop had a lazy eye that tended to wander in the direction he steered, and he carried on an internal monologue about these infernal kids on their bikes cutting through alleys and down staircases to force the cop cars to go around. Paraphrasing:

    “‘Turn, turn,’ he muttered… Spinning around, he wound up barreling into a pile of trash cans, praying to God that there wasn’t a cat or a wino hiding out among them, because they were under his wheels if they were.”

    His descriptions of Keys runs along a similar vein. He was always more interested in what the characters thought about what was going on, rather than the main action. I’ll have to search out some of his other work.

  4. Kate P says:

    My mom gave me The Bear Went Over the Mountain for Christmas one year–it was such a sharp, fun read. I keep it on my “writing reference” shelf for some balance!

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