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FAQ #4


Question: Do you know what the ultimate meaning of life is?
Answer: It surprises me how many times I have been asked this question. I have no idea. Like everyone else, I just make it up as I go along. I suppose, though, that existence precedes essence, not the other way around.

Question: I picked up a business card from your table at a UFO convention. I have three questions. First, what does your logo signify? Second, what does the Latin sentence mean? Third, where were you? No one was tending the table.
Answer: Here is a poor-quality image of my card  for those of you who haven't picked one up somewhere. I wish I could do better, but I have a cheap scanner. The logo is based on the earliest photographs (1927) of electron wave interference patterns, and it represents the indeterminacy and "fuzziness" that underlies reality's apparent solidity and predictabilty at the level of ordinary human perception and understanding. I hope that explanation is sufficient. I've incorporated the logo in my new T-shirt design, too.   

EEi Business Card

Isn't it a shame that very few American high schools offer Latin anymore? Do you think that there might be a correlation between the awful dumbness of today's average high school graduate and the disappearance of Latin in public schools. Or are other variables more significant? Perhaps the all-pervasive, non-invasive lobotomy known as television, or, more dumbly, TV, has reduced the average American's intellectual habilitation to that of a washing machine. Have you ever tried to get the attention of a television addict? Frustrating, isn't it? There he sits paralyzed, slack-jawed and breathing shallowly, oblivious to you and everything else except the blue glow and fragmented sounds and images emanating from the electronic Medusa--while he could be reading or doing homework or practicing a musical instrument or engaging in conversation. Well, there I go off on a tangent again. Sorry. The sentence translates thusly: "I believe flying saucers are real." And finally, that wasn't my table. One of my friends, a regular on the UFO convention circuit, displays my business cards, T-shirts, and pamphlets as a favor to me. You never can tell where my material will show up, either. Some convention organizers have specifically asked my friend not to display my stuff, whereas others don't mind at all.

Question: On page 89 of my copy of Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars, there's an illustration that shows Mrs. Church and Freddy causing you to fall down the steps at her house by pulling the rug out from under you. And the illustration on page 245 of  my Freddy Goes Camping shows Mrs. Peppercorn conking you on the head with a frying pan. You've stated that these events actually happened, and you've complained again and again, too much even, that Brooks lies about your character and your activities. My question is this: If the Freddy books are full of outright lies about you (and others), why would they contain passages and illustrations containing, as you would put it, THE TRUTH?
Answer: (Note: This specific question is similar to those posed by a number of readers, and since it's better written than all the rest, I include it here as representative.) You sound a bit like a Brooks apologist and potential propagator of Freddyism. Take care! To your question--yes, I can see why you might be puzzled; however, there is a simple (?) explanation. Now, literary theory and criticism were not exactly stressed at CHS, so my answer to your question is not going to be very learned. Just bear with me. I think almost all stories include some elements of "truth"--even weird stories like myths and fairy tales, or stories written in the magical realism style of Borges or Cortazar, or science fiction by Stanislaw Lem, or novels by Italo Calvino. Otherwise, how would readers connect with the narration? How would they be able to make any sense of a story if they could not attach their experiences of it to some aspect(s) of their experiences of reality? I don't think they could. I believe most readers picking up a book of fiction expect that the author has embedded autobiographical details in the story or included historical personages or scientific facts, etc., but that the narration as a whole is an imaginative creation. In other words, there is an implicit understanding that the author plays around when consciously and unconsciously mixing the ingredients of his mind, the minds of his readers, and the ways in which all the minds have perceived and interacted with the universe "out there" to produce what we call "the story."  In the case of Brooks's characterizations of me, I believe he was "crafty" enough (in two senses) to mix "fact" and "fiction" in just the right proportions to create an image of me (and other real residents of Centerboro as well) as a flat, one-dimensional "character." Thus, he reduces all the complexity of a real person to a caricature which readers do not and cannot take seriously. The illustrations you refer to are no more accurate renditions of reality than the accompanying narration which grossly simplifies, distorts, and therefore subtly turns into a lie the actual event. That isn't Mrs. Church in the illustration. That isn't Freddy Bean. That's not how I was injured by those two that night. The element of "truth" in the pictures and the story is minimal. Brooks has put a spin on the facts here and numerous other places throughout his generally abominable Freddy series in such a way as to create the impression that a real event is actually fiction. It's kind of the opposite of what most authors do when they try to make their fictions seem real. Now, please. No more questions like this. Answering them gives me one of my tremendous headaches which no doubt occur because of the real frying pan incident. It occurs to me that several of the subscribers to the Freddy-the-Pig list are more intelligent, educated, and literate than I am. Why don't you ask them questions like this? I suggest private email to avoid the disagreeable ruckus sure to ensue should you pose such questions to the general readership there.

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