A Mysterious Little Publishing Venture

Written by Andrey Slivka on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

In fact, Read’s an
environmental lawyer at a Park Ave. firm, which fact is…compelling. (A lawyer?
one thinks, watching her peer, secret and bright-eyed, out from behind her tumbler
of whiskey–straight out of the Edward Gorey School of Law.)

She’s also, in a remarkable
little way, a budding publisher. We’d met in Max Fish after work so she
could tell me the story behind the enigmatic pamphlet she’d mailed me.

I’d been impressed
by the mysterious, unsolicited document. It was the folded and staple-bound
work with which you’ll be familiar if you work in this business–people
often send along their self-published writing. But it was integritously done.
"Confessions of Doyle: Confession One," read the cover, by John Doyle;
the publisher, Read Books, New York, New York.

Read Books?

No curse words, no clip
art, no orthographical eccentricities–in other words, none of the tics
common to the genre. "John Doyle," read a note on the second page
of the 12-page booklet, "is a pseudonym for another man of a similar background."

The text that followed was

"I apologize for the
tardiness of this report, but my doctor ordered me to quit smoking," it
began. "The habit has been symbiotic with all my activities, for all of
my adolescent and adult life. So, as you might suspect, I could only split the
act of writing from the act of smoking with a monstrous and energy usurping
effort. I wish you could see the flexing muscles of my will at work on my nicotine
craving–their bulging might would make you swoon. If I could summon that
strength to some useful purpose, I could rule the world, or at least save myself.

"So, following proper
journalistic form, I’ve given you some mood setting (here I sit, craving
a burning bit of tobacco, a haggard young man with a romantic flaw, hacking
away at what I hope will be a long, meaningful missive). And now I will give
you my lede/presumptive moral: Pensive Irish boys from Boston suburbs ought
not leave those humble beginnings far out of mind. Nobody likes Hibernian ambition.
America prefers its Micks drunk and indolent…"

And so on, into wonderfully
written evocations of said Hibernian suburban Boston childhood.

The editorial mind reels.
A fully formed voice out of the great unsolicited Nowhere, a place dominated
by profaners and guttersnipes.

So what, I asked Elizabeth,
was the story? Here she is, a year and a half out of Harvard Law, working in
a respectable profession, writing legal briefs. She’s a successful young
professional. But then, on the side, here she is calling herself "Read
Books," and publishing enigmatic texts. (The next "Doyle" is
due out any week now. You should write Elizabeth at thesupersleuth@yahoo.com–come
to think of it, that address is interesting, too–what’s up there,
Elizabeth?–and order it.)

So who was this Doyle? Why
did his identity have to remain a mystery? Was he, like, an ex-convict?

"Let’s say he’s
between 25 and 30." She cringes. "Oh no! And after I’ve had a
drink! Can we leave it off the record? He’s a really good friend of mine.
And I am his attorney."

Leave off the record that
he’s between 25 and 30?

"No, just that he’s
not an ex-convict. He’s not currently on the lam."

Flustered, but face aglow
with secret mischief.

Elizabeth, are you Doyle?

"See, that’s why
I do want to say more, because it’s not me… He actually
specifically doesn’t want you to know where he lives. He’s not on
Rikers Island. No–that kind of–actually–he doesn’t live
on Rikers Island."

Another silence. An oblique
devilish smile.

Is he a lawyer, like you?

"If you’re going
to play 20 questions, I don’t want to go there. If you’re going to
ask, is he this, is he that, I don’t want to play this game. I don’t
really know why he wants to remain anonymous. But it’s not me.

"I’ll put it this
way. We’re very good friends. We talk every day. It’s not Thomas Pynchon
or J.D. Salinger, it’s someone our age… So I’m not under strict
orders, but…"

Okay. Have I heard of this

Pause. "I don’t
think so, no."

You can’t even tell
me where he lives?

"He’ll have to
tell you where he lives, and you won’t be surprised."


"Ohhhhhh, you know."
Singsong, girlish. "The kids live everywhere these days."

We sipped our whiskeys.
Raven-draped Elizabeth looked conspicuous in the grunge-guy ambience. Bristly
downtown lumberjacks staggered in from the freezing street. She smiled–a
girl who’s just got it into her mind to reach over and mash up her little
brother’s pudding.

"You know, maybe he’ll
get mad at me for divulging this much, and kill me, and it will all come to