As I’ve noted from time to time, my life consists largely of business travel. This morning I got up at 5 a.m. to go to the airport to catch a flight to LaGuardia. We were delayed an hour and a half by bad weather in New York, but I arrived in time for a series of meetings. At the end of the day, I returned to LaGuardia, which, as a result of delays throughout the day, had a bedraggled third-world look with people sprawled everywhere.
As it happened, though, my airplane came in from Minneapolis just 20 minutes or so late; they disembarked the passengers, cleaned the plane, and boarded passengers for the return to Minnesota. Tired from a long day, I couldn’t work much after the first half hour of the flight, and cast about for something to do. I noticed that a book had been jammed into a pocket on the wall next to my seat–2D–and, curious, pulled it out.
It was a pre-publication copy of a book called The Happiest Man in the World, about a man called Poppa Neutrino who could be described, without fear of contradiction, as eccentric. Stuck into the pages of the book was a one-page, handwritten note on Random House Publishing Group stationery, signed by one of the senior officers of that firm. The note began:
As promised, Alec Wilkinson’s marvellous [sic] “The Happiest Man in the World,” … I would be so grateful if you could spring for a quote for the book. You are perfect for it.
At the top of the page, someone else has written in a different hand, with multiple crossings-out which I don’t know how to reproduce: “Mr. Wilkinson has created a masterpiece of reporting, with a [“novella” crossed out] story on every page.”
I immediately realized what had happened. “Garrison” is Garrison Keillor, Minnesota’s bitter, once-funny “humorist,” now sunk in dark political conspiracy theories. Keillor had sat in seat 2-D on the flight from Minneapolis to New York–a fact confirmed by the empty sushi package I discovered at my feet, missed, apparently, by the cleaning crew–and had jammed his review copy of The Happiest Man in the World into the pocket next to his seat, possibly in disgust, maybe just to make room for his sushi, and forgot to reclaim it when the plane landed.
So–even though we have ripped him a number of times for his bitter, paranoid political commentary–Garrison, I’ve got your book! If you need to finish reading it before completing your blurb, send an email to [email protected], and I’ll arrange to get it to you.
The book, by the way, is actually pretty interesting.
PAUL adds: So now Random House has its quote: “The book is actually pretty interesting.” John Hinderaker