By Jack Engelhard
The man said “I’ve been looking you up” and that sounded ominous and then he said “I’ve been reading you” and that sounded like a threat, which it was. “I’ll bet you’re a big fan of Ann Coulter,” he smirked, and when they smirk like that they remind me of Bill Maher – but hello indeed on Ann Coulter for the legs and the brains. I may be switching to Pamela Geller for her beauty and brains and also to maintain my letch credentials.
“I can see why you’ve been favorably compared to Hemingway,” the man said – but as we all know, no good deed or compliment goes unpunished.
I had just walked into Hanks – you know, the news shop – to buy the racing paper and The New York Post, nothing more than that, and this man was waiting for me. (They’re stalking me?) He was buying The New York Times, naturally. He said, “I want to talk about your writings, especially that book.”
I said, “I don’t talk about my writing. That’s why I write, so I won’t have to talk.” Yo, writing is my profession, so I don’t engage in it off-duty.
“Just spare me a few moments of enlightenment,” he said scholarly, and when they take that tone they remind me of Bill Moyers who should not be confused with Bill Maher or maybe he should. They’re liberals. I have nothing against liberals except when they get superior and begin to sulk when the world refuses to conform to them, which is when they get testy, nasty and personal.
I’m thinking in particular about the man at the racetrack who, during the Bush years, SAT DOWN when our national anthem was being played.
This man at Hanks reminded me of that and maybe it was even the same guy. Let’s call him Peter because that’s his name, but only his first name, he wouldn’t give me his last, “So,” I said, “that means I can’t be reading you.” He said that though he’s a book reviewer by trade, he’s not as famous as me. “I’m not famous,” I protested.
Peter said he’d read all my books. That is strange because even I have not read all my books.
Peter mentioned that Big Book (and movie) of mine of years ago and, just as I expected, slammed into my latest, “The Bathsheba Deadline.” He said, “I bought the paperback from Amazon last week and finished it in one sitting.” I was glad to hear this but bracing myself. “I give you five stars for the thrills and the suspense and ten stars for the quality of the writing, but as for the politics, zero.”
The sex, then, is PG, but X-Rated for the politics.
He even agreed with Robert Spencer’s online assessment of the book as “an insightful, courageous look inside the headlines” and Letha Hadady’s Amazon take on the novel as “a towering literary achievement.” But when it comes to politics and culture, he insisted, this is where we clash. I always clash with people whose minds operate one-dimensional.
“You were provocative against Islam,” Peter said.
Really? As I remembered it, within the fiction, I gave the facts, and newspaper editor Jay Garfield’s best friend in the novel is a Muslim.
I said, “Hey, I do the writing and let others, like you, figure it out.”
“Your take on the news media was particularly offensive.” I guess he was referring to my line about the Times’ “blood libel of the day.”
Or – HALF THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT. (The sub-theme of the novel.)
“The Times,” Peter said, “is not biased, certainly not against Israel.”
“Can I please go home?” I said. “It’s Sunday and my bagels are getting cold.”
“It would be a crime,” Peter said, “if this book of yours becomes a bestseller like that other one of yours.”
I remembered this from my Bible classes: “May their curses be turned into your blessings.”
Suddenly, he stopped being conversational. Like I said, it does get personal. “I’m going to be reviewing your book,” said Peter. “Watch out.”
I don’t know how legit this Peter is as a reviewer, but in this age of anonymity everybody’s a critic.
One reviewer, among those who gave “The Bathsheba Deadline” five stars on Amazon, warned that “leftists will be trying to suppress this book.”
Now I know what he’s talking about.
Novelist Jack Engelhard can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com