Years ago, I realized I needed to tell you something. Frustratingly at the time, I was unable to access the World Wide Web to do so because it wouldn’t be invented for about eight years. When it arrived in our lives, I became distracted, I guess, by online shopping and the website reminding me that Abe Vigoda is still alive.
By the time I realized again that I needed to tell you something, I also realized that I needed to tell you some other things alongside that first thing. Each of the things that needed telling jockeyed for position in my brain, like small children clamoring for my attention. Frustratingly at the time, I didn’t know how to handle small children, because I wouldn’t be a father for another couple years.
Then I had a child. And my family moved to London. And we had a second child. And life happened. And we moved back to New York. And more life happened. Lots of the life was grand, even glorious; some of the life was dark and very hard. But all of it seemed to jump out at me and tackle me whenever I made a move toward my computer to type my somethings to you.
A year or two ago a friend of mine who lives in Boston and who likes my odd little comics mentioned that this online magazine called Coffeelicious had an open call for comics. He thought I should submit mine. I thought maybe I should check it out first. I went to the website. It was funky and spartan with a simple navigation that had only five headings.
One of them was “Jonathan Carroll.”
I’ve let a lot more life slip by without writing to you since then, and I can’t exactly pin down the reason why I decided to write now, but maybe it’s simply that over the years I’ve finally developed ways of dodging life when it hurls itself at me.
So now I’d like to tell you something:
Just thank you. So much thank you. A million tons of thank you.
Thank you for being on the shelf in Waldenbooks in 1981 when I was a teenager and I was lost and I hadn’t figured out that I liked to read yet. Thank you for writing The Land of Laughs and for having a publisher who hired an artist to draw a picture of a guy eating pistachio ice cream with a giant spider in Elizabethan clothes and an anthropomorphic kite. Because, dammit, sometimes you fucking CAN judge a book by its cover. I spent my tip money from my paper route on that book, and it forever changed the way I look at words and stories. It, and all your books that followed, fall into that part of my life that I categorized above as “glorious.”
Thank you for being there when my life was dark and hard. Dark and hard like ebony. Because when you would release a new novel, I would save it, resting it in a reserved space on the floor beside my bed. And I would pick a Saturday on the calendar, and when that Saturday arrived, I would wake up, pick up your book and read it through to the end without getting out of bed. When I did get out of bed, my life would feel lighter and easier because I’d had an infusion of magic or wonder or weirdness. Something in that camp anyway.
Thank you for introducing me to so many extraordinary people. If there is a heaven, I imagine for me it will involve my getting to have lunch with many of your narrators. And then an extended pub crawl with Venasque.
Thank you especially for writing Bones of the Moon, which I have read several times and which remains to this day, along with The Canterbury Tales, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, The End of Mr Y and The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my five Desert Island Books. If I could be Borges’ Pierre Menard, I would write Bones of the Moon instead of Don Quixote. It is as though you somehow reached into my head, examined the rat’s-nest-wiring-schematic that forms my psyche, and determined what set of literary proteins would best bind with the cells of my life.
Because of that book, I truly fell in love with reading. Seriously. Eventually, I earned my masters in English literature.
Because of that book, I truly fell in love with writing. I’ve written a movie that was produced and a bunch of stories and essays that I’m proud of.
And because of that book, my daughter, like Cullen James’ daughter, is named Mae.
I owe you a lot. I don’t know how much of what I owe you this mad screed covers, but please feel free to bill me for the balance.
I look forward to your next book.
Yours most sincerely,
P.S. My thanks to Charlotte Franklin for feeding me my Adderall and making me behave like less of a caveman by signing this note.
P.P.S. Your short story “The Fall Collection” is one of the most sublime examples of the genre I have encountered, with an ending so beautiful that it moves me even to think about it. Forgot to mention that before.