It's a good policy to operate in an upfront, open manner. Games, trickery, and anonymous names have a way of backfiring, as we've seen before.
I asked to see the postmark and envelope of the Ruminator letter, because I KNEW I hadn't sent the thing. (Granted that I may have enemies in Philly-- none though who'd stoop to such behavior as sending a fake letter.)
The letter should be recognized as fake by anyone familiar with my writing. I don't need to call anyone an "asshole," when I have logic on my side.
Daniel Handler has sent me two e-mails about this matter. I'll present the facts and let you, the reader of this blog, decide where lies the truth of the matter.
In his first e-mail to me, dated 9/11, Handler makes several assertions. 1.) The letter was forwarded to him by his publisher. 2.) He'd never heard of me before that time. 3.) He believed the letter was real because it matched the language of this blog. (We can presume then that after reading the letter he read this blog.)
The end of Handler's e-mail shows no anxiousness to get to the bottom of the matter: "I don't know what's going on and frankly don't care . . . if you'll excuse me I'm off to my local dive bar to drink bourbon and read Frederick Busch."
Several questions went through my head after reading Handler's statement-- first among them being, "Why did he wait so long to respond to this matter?" Note that his response occurred only after I tried to force his hand, asking, "Where's Daniel Handler?"-- and after I added a note showing that I was open to the possibility that he had indeed received the fake letter from somebody. Suddenly he let me know that he did receive it, indeed!
Why the wait? Once he was aware of my blog, wouldn't he look in periodically AFTER the letter appeared in The Ruminator? Wouldn't his friends at The Believer keep him updated?
On August 27 I put a post up on this blog, "Fake Letter," which addressed the controcersy. Whatever he'd thought beforehand, Handler should've been aware that the letter wasn't from me. Yet he sent no e-mail to me-- not for two weeks. He made no response while I notified The Ruminator, while Jeff Potter did; while further discussion occurred on this blog, along with the big Patrick Simonelli Monday Report on the matter on the www.literaryrevolution.com ULA site.
On September 8 Maud Newton mentioned the controversy on her widely-read site. The injured party Daniel Handler remained silent-- until September 11. Curious behavior.
(As we'll see in Part Two of this post, Handler knew the letter wasn't from me long before this.)
I'll readily accept Handler's other contention that he'd never heard of me or the ULA before receiving the letter (only his friends know the truth about this), even though The Believer, whose editors he's tight with, and which he presumably reads, did a contentious lead article on the ULA in 2003, which led to some minor "Page Six" controversy. He'd never heard of us though we attended a 2003 McSweeney's-sponsored affair at Housing Works in New York which had led to other "Page Six" publicity. He'd never heard of us even though the New York Times did a front-page article in January 2004 about anonymous Amazon attacks on the Underground Literary Alliance by Dave Eggers. The New York Times Book Review listed our site in their pages in October 2004, but Handler never reads the book journal. Many, many people have never heard of the ULA-- the Eggers gang NOT among them. But we can still accept his statement.
What we DO know is that Daniel Handler was aware of us AFTER receiving the letter, as he admits, BEFORE giving the letter to The Ruminator. This gives his exchange with David Sedaris more meaning, adding to the "wink, wink, nod, nod" tone of the exchange.
In my response to Handler's September 11 e-mail, the one in which he said he didn't care about the matter, I pointed out that he'd cared enough to pass around the letter at parties, and to give it to The Ruminator to publish publicly. I said (sincerely) that I wanted to find out who sent the letter. I asked about the postmark.
Handler replied on September 12. He said:
-"The letters were forwarded from my publisher, without the original envelope, as with much of my mail."
-"I don't bring private correspondence to parties,"
-"I can't imagine why we'd have any reason to communicate further,"
Note Handler's eagerness to drop the matter. Most interesting is the idea that his publisher opens his mail. I've had mail forwarded to me by periodicals and companies, addressed to me c/o the publication or company. Even when The Atlantic printed a simple letter by me, some time ago, they forwarded, unopened, mail addressed to me that was afterward sent to them. In fact, opening mail addressed to someone else, as far as I'm aware, is against the law. (Daniel Handler might want to notify his publisher about this.)
Even when one employs or designates a secretary or agent to handle one's mail, standard business procedure is to staple the opened envelope to the back of the letter. Often a return address is given only on the envelope. Everyone who receives a lot of mail-- as I do-- knows this. Further, the envelope is legal evidence that one received the item on such and such date. This is important ESPECIALLY if one is going to publish the letter. One could hardly credibly publish such letter without such proof of mailing and reception. Without such evidence, one may as well assume the letter was never mailed or received at all.
This is damning evidence to any notion that I sent the letter. It's reason alone for immediate apology and correction from The Ruminator, and from Handler himself. However, there's more, as I'll discuss in Part II, "The Other E-Mail."