FAQ #10

Question: What do you think are the 100 best novels of all time?
Answer: I don't have a blinking clue. Though I've read far more than 100 novels in my life, I've been so busy with one project or another over the past few years that whenever I have had time to read lately, I spend it on nonfiction kinds of stuff like Popular Mechanics, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, the newspaper, and user's manuals. My recollections, therefore, of most of the novels I've digested is a little hazy, but I can tell you what I think are fourteen pretty good ones. I don't know if they would qualify for any "100 Best" list. Read them yourself and then you decide. Here they are in no particular order with their authors, but without comment (except for one brief one) from me, because I wouldn't know what to say other than I enjoyed reading them for one reason or another. Some of the authors are missing their accent marks because I couldn't figure out how to do that.

  1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  2. Glass Shards by Dieter Blutenfuss
  3. Null Set and Game by Alfredo Hernandez
  4. The Path to the Nest of Spiders by Italo Calvino
  5. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  6. Did You See the Duck Anywhere? by Lemuel Heifitz
  7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  8. Grendel by John Gardner
  9. Semprini by Antonio Vacco-Borgia
  10. Voltaire's Thumb by Boleslaw Przsczesniewski
  11. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanislaw Lem
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
  13. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  14. Freddy Goes Camping by Walter R. Brooks (Note: I put this title on my list because there's the character Mr. Eha based on me in it, not because it's great or even good literature. Freddyites seem to like it, though, but for the wrong reasons.)

Question: You have written about the "Face on Mars," but what about that "smiley face" on Mars? What's that all about? Is it just a crater or s it something the Martians made?
Answer: The "smiley face" on Mars is a smiley face built by the Martians. It is the second largest artificial structure discovered so far in our solar system. Just look at the image below and then at the computer enhancement, and you'll see what is obvious to even the so-called scientists although they refuse to admit it.

Mars Smiley Face

Original "Smiley"

Enhanced Mars Smiley Face

Enhanced "Smiley"

Through some recent chance fluctuations in the interplanetary ether, I have been able to penetrate the Martian anti-telepathic security barrier at their central data bank using two of my Telepathy Skullcaps (still available at the sale price) arranged in a series circuit with my temporal lobes. I was easily able to access data pertaining to large-scale architecture and the subcategory of large-scale architecture designed to frustrate attempts to prove the existence of intelligent life on Mars. You would think that the best way for the Martians to accomplish that would be to hide all evidence of intelligence, wouldn't you. But the Martians are much more ingenious than that, I assure you. We all know that your garden-variety human being has a propensity to project his expectations and experiences onto the outer world. And we can't help it. That's what human beings do. For instance, if someone flashed an inkblot at you, would you say, "That's a random symmetric pattern generated by smearing ink on paper"? No, of course you wouldn't. You'd say, "It's a bat," or "It's a butterfly," or "It's an extraterrestrial about to administer a probe."  Well, having observed us for many thousands of years, the Martians know of this deeply embedded inclination of ours, and they take full advantage of it. Our scientists have interpreted the original smiley image as an impact crater acted upon by Martian meteorological and geological processes. The lunatic fringe, on the other hand, sees the same smiley image and immediately babbles about irrefutable proof of intelligence on Mars. The huge majority of humans beings between these two extremes naturally gravitates toward the lunatic interpretation, which in this case happens to be absolutely correct.  However, the billions of humans constituting the majority of this majority (i.e., "normal"  people), having been indoctrinated in the scientific method in high school and fearing the ridicule sure to descend upon them if they say otherwise, go along with the scientific explanation and say, "Well, it looks like a smiley face, but it can't really be one." Once that conclusion is accepted, a generalization takes hold in the average person's mind that there are no intelligent beings on Mars at all. Just what the Martians want us to think!!! So by using a banal and silly cultural icon created by human beings, they mask their presence on Mars and have yet another good laugh (or what passes as a laugh on Mars) on us.

Question: You've mentioned your yard displays many times, but you haven't shown us any pictures of them. For those of us unable to visit Centerboro, especially during the holidays, would you please include a picture or two?
Answer: Pay attention! You missed the photo of last year's Hallowe'en display on a recent picture page. Go there for a look. Below you will see pictures of my even more ambitious Hallowe'en display for this year. It took me months to plan this display, secure the materials, do the welding, recover from a very nasty burn, and move it to my yard on a flatbed truck from the scrapyard where I assembled it. The creature which now stands in my front yard is my interpretation of a yekkat-ant hybrid, a truly horrifying concept. Just imagine a yekkat, a ferocious solitary Martian predator, crossed with the persistent, unrelenting ant! On our way to a hike in the Big Woods earlier this fall, Mrs. Underdunk and I took some pictures of the display before it was transported to my yard. Mrs. U. was gracious enough to pose next to the project to give you some idea of its scale. By the way, Mrs. U. wanted me to be sure to tell you that she never, never wears vulgar dungarees other than and only when we hike.

Behold the Yekkant!

This unique display will go on the auction block on 11/1/98. Opening bid is $5000.
You'll have to arrange for transportation to your site.

The Yekkant metal sculpture

Question: Could you please show us a picture of your new pet dog "Chloe"?
Answer: I certainly will. Here's "Chloe." The other "Chloe" I owned many years ago was a wonderful beagle. This Chloe is a Brittany, a breed I recommend to anyone who wants a playful, loyal companion with a sweet temperament. Please do not ask for any of her puppies, as I do not intend to breed her.

The best dog in the universe

More Short Answers to Infrequently Asked Questions

  • I believe we used lead-free paint in the hand-carved Martian models, but I can't say for sure.
  • Yes, EHA Industries is Y2K compliant.
  • I estimate my readership to be in the several dozens.
  • Mr. Webb's first name was Hubert, and his wife's name was Emmeline, "Emmy" for short..
  • You'll have to ask your pharmacist. When I can't, I use Valerian root.
  • Is the Pope really infallible? How should I know? What possible difference would it make anyway?
  • Usually three eggs.
  • Sorry, but I don't understand your "nondeterministic, polynomial-time--complete" question.
  • Mrs. U. and I visit Buffalo quite frequently, as a matter of fact. We stay with some friends who have a condo on Delaware Avenue, and our favorite restaurants there are Carmine's and Salvatore's.
  • The doctors say I suffered a lesion on the right frontal region of my cortex from that frying pan injury. One of them said that I have "Gourmand Syndrome" as a result.
  • I'm not particularly fond of bagpipes. They usually give me great whanging headaches.
  • Five favorite North American cities in order: Montreal, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, and Asheville, NC.
  • I always like to be the shoe, but the top hat is a close second.
  • There isn't a Starbucks in Centerboro, so I don't know.
  • The Voynich manuscript is actually Martian in origin. I believe the original copy is kept in Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Follow the link if you want more "information" on it, but it will be wrong.
  • Yes, I agree. Dr. Seuss was a genius!

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