I surprised a colleague yesterday with the news that his book would be published today. Ironically the title of the work is Answer Coming Soon.
The author, Dan Whitman, believes his books should be left behind on commercial airlines for the next passenger to come along and read. That humble disposition toward his work is exactly what makes his prose so engaging.
I know this because I’m in the middle of his previous release, Blaming No One: Blog Postings on Arts, Letters, Policy. Each of his essays—they are more than blog posts, frankly, such a nasty phrase—is perched on a distinct moment in time and accented by light swats at the folly of man. Except where a heavier blow will do.
A sign on a dog park prohibiting excessive barking is ammunition for war between the orthodox and the laissez-faire among us. Except Dan, squarely in the laissez-faire camp, isn’t a fighter. “For me, the orthodox are the enemy, but I would never say so to one of them as I know I’d go straight to the wheel for breaking, or to the stake.” His problem with the orthodox isn’t the breaking and the burning. It’s that they lack perspective: “Don’t they realize that a thousand girls a minute are being impressed into slavery world-wide…?”
I’m not going to shill on about Dan’s credentials. I don’t think he’d like it. They are there for all to see. I’ll just tell you he’s the only writer I know who can write an essay on temporary blindness that is also about Jean Bertrand Aristide, rheumatology, voodoo, and pain as a remedy for despair. “My eyes burned in their sockets, and something called angle collapse resulted. Imagine a romantic evening with chestnuts in the fire, but consider it from the point of view of the chestnut.”
What do you think such a humorist would say about Donald Rumsfeld?
I suppose you could leave books like this on a plane. But I’d be surprised by so callous an act. This isn’t writing to be tossed aside; this is writing to pass directly to a friend.