I know it’s not nice to hate. I do. But we’re all sinners here, so let me tell you a story.
The other day, My Fair Lady mentioned how fired up she was about her book club because the author himself would be in attendance at the confab. She said he was a local fellow.
Per usual, I wasn’t hearing her words. They were going into my ears, but I wasn’t wearing my listening hat. “Blah, blah, book club, blah” is what I heard.
“So I’ve got to buy this book,” she said. The word “buy” caught my attention. “The book is called something like I Love the Lord’s Belly.”
Immediately I wanted to hit something. And eat a tub of tin roof ice cream.
“You mean Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles?” I said, already knowing the answer.
“That’s it!” she answered, just like I knew she would.
I know this so-called author. Will Clarke. I met him in early 2002, when he paid the bills as an advertising copywriter, before he published his novel—self-published his novel. A mutual friend introduced us. Will and I went to the Ginger Man a couple times, knocked back some beers, talked shop. If you want to call it a blind date, fine. I thought he had dreamy azure eyes. But a novelist?
He sent me an uncorrected proof of his book. Back then, it was called Lord Krishna’s Love Handles. I read it. And, like everything else written by someone I know, it dishonored the trees that gave their lives for the paper it was printed on. But Will had bought me beers and he had pretty eyes, so I told him I thought his book was wonderful, a real page turner. But trust me: it sucked.
I did offer him one bit of constructive criticism. I said, “You might want to change that part about the CIA using the Hare Krishna temple in East Dallas as a front for its mind-control program. You know about the Krishna sex-abuse scandal, right? You don’t want your novel to get tangled up in those real-life events.”
Will agreed, and when the book came out, the temple was gone, and he’d swapped Krishna for Vishnu. He’d taken my disingenuous advice like a cute piglet gobbling feed pellets at the petting zoo. Because I knew darn well that any connection between his crummy book and a sex scandal would have generated great publicity. At that point, it was hard to hate him.
My hackles quivered, though, when Will told me about how he’d begun dating women he met online, in literary chat rooms, while posing as a fan of his own book to drum up sales. Part of me felt sorry for him: how pathetic, pretending to be one of the three Will Clarke fans who isn’t Will Clarke’s mother. But another part of me thought, I can’t believe that self-published book is getting him laid.
Then it happened. Will really scored. Simon & Schuster bought the book—and another book he’d previously written. One reviewer said Will was “a lot better” than Dave Eggers. Another writer compared him to Kurt Vonnegut. Will quit his advertising gig shortly after Paramount bought the movie rights to Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles. There has been talk of Brad Pitt playing the lead role.
Will mocked me with every fawning profile of him that appeared in the media, each one detailing how he’d written much of his novel at a cafe in Lakewood called Legal Grounds. Look, I go to Legal Grounds. I’ve drunk lots of coffee there. No one has ever offered me a book deal.
And Kurt Vonnegut? Are you serious?
Finally, there came the development with my wife’s book club. That’s when my yellow bile breached the levee and sent my last kind, Christian feeling for Will scrambling from my heart, searching for higher ground. (It’s called a metaphor, Clarke. Look it up!) My Fair Lady, of course, loved the book. Traitorous wench. And the other ladies in her club all thought Will, with his azure eyes, was darling.
Funny ending to the story, though: Will sent me an e-mail saying that some random person had bought a used copy of Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles at Half Price Books and had sent Will a note just to let him know how delighted she was to discover that her copy contained an inscription from Will Himself. The inscription? It was addressed to me.