Thursday, August 6, 2009

Problem: Crummy Letter to Newspaper

OOPS DEPT., AUG. 6 - My hometown of Albany, NY, was also home to William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-wining author of Ironweed. Kennedy was Albany's best known author (except for the few months when Toni Morrison lived in town, in the house next to mine), and pretty much Albany's only celebrity.

Kennedy's son Brendan went to my high school. I don't remember he and I ever speaking, although my yearbook tells me we were on the five-student Newspaper Committee together when I was a senior and he was a junior. Sometime in the summer of 1986, Brendan and his father co-wrote a children's book,
Charlie Malarkey and the Belly Button Machine. Atlantic Monthly Press published it, and the two got some national press. That November, I wrote an angry letter to the Albany Times-Union.

I remember reading my letter in the school library newspaper the morning it was printed, and not making the connection that I'd done anything troublesome, or even out of the ordinary. Later that day, words were exchanged with some of Kennedy's friends on the dodgeball court, but that was about all the feedback I got; it wasn't really the kind of school were kids broke into fisticuffs.

Artistic jealousy is an insidious force. Over the years, I've seen it do serious damage to all sorts of relationships. I guess I'm glad I got my snippy fit of jealousy out of the way at an early age. In 1994, Puffin books published the Kennedy's sequel,
Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose. I'm glad, also, that my nasty little note didn't deter either from working together again.

Anyway, if you're Brendan Kennedy and you've Googled yourself and stumbled on this page (and my strong suspicion is that everybody Googles themselves sooner or later), please consider this an apology. I was young and high on hormones and had not quite yet worked out the mechanics of being a decent human. If it's any consolation, I've had some crummy things written about me in the last 23 years, and none of it's been about anything nearly as prestigious as even a children's book.