Reactions From the Other Side

Over the four years since the Lester Lord trilogy was launched, I’ve sold a small number of books to a small, but mostly appreciative group of readers. Most of these have been friends or friends of friends who doubted my ability write a decent novel, but out of curiosity risked their $2.99 on the e-editions. Some being of the old school of “I have to hold a book in my hands,” blew a bundle on the paperback versions. These high rollers got some pretty good art for their money since all my book covers are the original work of my artist wife, Sandy. And I? Well, like all promoters of the arts, Amazon makes sure the author doesn’t take too much of the profits. The paperbacks don’t yield a lot more royalties than the Kindle books.

As I’ve emphasized in previous blogs, my main goal in writing these novels was to see if I could do it. Did I have the imagination, the writing skills and the motivation to keep plugging away at the word processor for hours on end, trying to dramatize my ideas in an entertaining way? All along, the novels were geared to appeal to approximately like-minded, well educated, urban readers who look askance at religion and are politically liberal.

While I seriously have entertained fears for my life should the wrong people–actually the right people who would possibly learn something from the books– catch wind of the books and be, let’s say, somewhat at odds with my premises, up until recently I had little to fear. Not being a known author or celebrity, I had little doubt the books would fly below the radar. I considered them a personal communication to appreciative readers and a way of getting a lot off my chest without having to trouble the newspapers with op-eds that are usually rejected. I have had some success in getting op-eds published, however, and if you are interested in reading them you can google the Albany Times Union, “Liberty on the precipice” (originally titled “The Death of Lady Liberty,” and why they changed the title, beats me) that was published in October 2016 when it had become clear to me that Luce and his Russian agents were going to succeed in getting Trump into the White House. You may also enjoy another op-ed published in the same newspaper titled “Silence is a form of reverence.” That title was also changed, from “Silence Please,” probably because it implied that those who feel the need to invoke the name of Jesus at public and government events should kindly shut the —– up. How could anyone imagine I’d feel that way about someone foisting his religion on everyone else with no regard for how offensive it is to non-Christians and what visions of repression and persecution it stirs up? Really.

But fate would have it that someone would eventually get hold of one of my books and not like what I have to say. When it did, I had no one to blame but myself. If you recall the character “Percy” from the chapter “The Jury is Out” in “The Brief Long-Term Therapy of A. Lester Lord,” you may not be surprised to learn he was based on a high school friend of mine, a born again Christian who has, I’ve learned, only strengthened his faith as he’s aged. After not hearing from him for decades since high school graduation, I hunted him down and sent him a letter after the book was published to let him know about his role in the book. Eventually he read “his” chapter and was delighted with it. So far, so good. But then, despite my urgings to pass on “Cosmic Casino” he started reading it and gave me an earful about how little I know about the Bible, Christianity, etc. We went back and forth by email for a while, he protesting and I reminding him the books are not works of theology but simply religious and political satire skewering fundamentalist religion as the handmaiden of reactionary politics. Meanwhile, while denying there was any evangelical Christian political agenda, he itemized the reasons why he voted for Trump, and in the process summarized the agenda very well. Like many of his ilk, the main reason he voted for Trump and Republicans is his absolute disapproval of abortion. We didn’t talk about it, but I think he’s not big on LBGTQ issues either.

After a while he gave up on reading and maintained radio silence. Fortunately, while “Percy” served in the armed forces and presumably knows how the use a gun, I knew I had nothing to fear from him, so after “Guitars of the Gods” came out, I rattled his cage again. Now he launched into his condemnation of abortion with a vengeance. Instead of arguing the other side, I used some verbal judo, not coming out for or against. I presented an exposition of the rationales, whether or not he saw the validity of them, of those, not necessarily me, who are “pro-choice.” I also presented a reductio ad absurdum argument against all forms of contraception, including abstinence, as technically being murder and interfering with the presumed plan of Lester to micromanage conception. I followed up with concluding that Lester must be even more of a screwup than even I portrayed him to be if he engineered the births of so many defective human beings. Oh, I forgot. It’s part of “his plan.” No wonder Boss busted him. His “plan” makes Donald Trump look like a stable genius. But we won’t be too hard on the guy. At least he could admit he was wrong and learn to be a “mench,”

The result was startling. Now we were not arguing, but simply trading ideas and opinions without rancor. I’m looking forward to more discussions with “Percy” and sincerely wish more people on opposite sides of the great American divide could follow our example. It starts with basic mutual respect. That’s easy for me and “Percy” since it goes back to a healthy friendship between us. It provided a willingness to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Are you listening, Congress? Of course not. But if you agree with me, or not, please spread the “Word” and turn your friends on to the wisdom of Lester.

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