Quotes from Gregory Mcdonald

     "That night, driving into New York for our first Mystery Writers of America dinner, my wife asked me, 'How do you feel about "Fletch" being nominated for Best Book Award? Do you want to win?' I answered, 'I honestly don't know. If I do win the Edgar I am afraid I will be known mainly as a mystery writer. My other works may be overshadowed, forever
seen in that light."

     Later: "It is true that Americans in particular
are too apt to typecast, label people, in nasty shorthand, seem to feel more comfortable with cartoons rather than detailed pictures. For thirteen years publishers for whom my works had made millions refused even to consider "Safekeeping," explicitly insisting it would 'ruin (my) image as a mystery writer', which novel I ultimately did publish, for a ten dollar advance, to universal critical praise. I have enjoyed thoroughly my writing mysteries; especially do I love their having attracted worldwide appreciation. Understand that I have never written 'for money', except for enough to be free to continue my literary attempts; I have had to make my own way financially since a teenager; I have had to endow myself, my other work. I know I have confused people, and I am sorry for that. I once overheard a conversation questioning whether I am really Fletch, Flynn, Tom Betancourt, Robby Burnes or David MacFarlane. I believe working so diversely has enabled me to bring fresh skills, ideas to each side of my work. Ultimately, I pray people see all my work, and my life, as one consistent, unified whole. I am most fortunate to be able to say this: Even without the mysteries I believe I have had a marvelously fulfilled, possibly useful writing life."

The Other Works

Running Scared, 1964
Comment: Highly controversial when first published (no long so), Mcdonald's first published novel is hailed by critics as "the first shot fired in the universal cultural revolution." Apparently so shocked by public reaction to his book, Mcdonald did not publish another novel ("Fletch") for ten years, working in the interim as a journalist. (See Education.)
Inference: Increasing use of new technologies by (post-war) institutions results in an increasingly cold, inhuman, dehumanizing Society with increasing self-destructive tendencies.
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Love Among the Mashed Potatoes, 1978
(preferred title: "Dear M.E.")
Subject: A lovelorn columnist, Mark Edwards, discovers at least three responses to every question, first in his column, "Dear M.E.", second in memos to his managing editor, third in entries in his journal.
Inference: It's tough bein' honest.
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Who Took Toby Rinaldi?, 1978
(preferred title [UK]: "Snatched")
Inference: What's real in Fantasyland?
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Safekeeping, 1985
Critique: "A tour d'force of American hyphenated-dialects, and the culture clashes they reflect." Deliciously easy to read, as Mcdonald more uses rhythms of speech rather than cracked spellings.
Critique: "If Charles Dickens and Nathaniel West had collaborated on "Oliver Twist," they might have produced as wise and entertaining a book as "Safekeeping." - The New York Times Book Review
Mcdonald on the Subject: "During the Nazi bombing of England, World War Two, orphaned young Robby Burnes is evacuated to an uncle in New York who does not exist. He proceeds through all levels of American Society like baked beans through a sailor."
Comment: This is a most delightfully witty, fun, incisive novel - absolute proof that some American book awards to literature do not relate.
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Time Squared Quartet
Mcdonald on the Subject: "Growing up, most of my friends were curious about, eager to get into space. I was curious about time, what is it, why is it, the various kinds of time, the cause and effect of times upon civilization, the individual."
Comment: Although all four volumes were prepared, considering "reader accessibility", publishers printed and released them well out of order: The fourth "A World Too Wide" first in 1987; the first "Exits and Entrances" second in 1988; the second "Merely Players" third in 1988; the third "Wise Saws", although prepared for publication, even the jacket cover printed, not at all, because of "The Key Distribution Scandal", (in which a warehouser allegedly borrowed $3m using the books within he did not own as collateral; reportedly a court sealed the warehouse, bankrupting many small publishers). Archival materials (The Gregory Mcdonald Collection, currently on deposit with Twentieth Century Archives) prove that Mcdonald first drafted sections of "Exits and Entrances" in 1951, of "Wise Saws" in 1953, of "Merely Players" in 1958; that over the years he redrafted theses works fully as many as fifteen times. Early efforts to publish "Merely Players" one suspects were thwarted as central to the plot is the love affair between a black man (John Bart Nelson) and a white woman, (Janet Twombley) miscegenation was still illegal in most American states. Despite all this confusion, the volumes essentially being snatched from the public almost as soon as they were presented, each was highly critically acclaimed. Those who possess any of these first editions consider themselves fortunate indeed. One other note: "Pentecost by John Bart Nelson", with Precept, does exist as an addendum to "Merely Players" intended to be a part of that volume; the publisher turned it back, saying "a long poem" at the end. (The poem, "Mewling and Puking" in "Exists and Entrances" may be what makes the whole work succeed. It is shorter, and less "intimidating.") For the reader's sake, editors herewith present the Quartet volumes, as well as we may, in their intended.
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Exits and Entrances, 1988
Subject: In the first, highly innovative section of "Exits and Entrances," Lovers and Pantaloons, Mcdonald almost brackets the work by dealing with two ages at once, roughly 20 and 60, hopes, dreams; reality. Essentially all characters in the entire Quartet relate in some way to Columbia Falls, Maine. In Satchels and Snails, the youngster evades the truth by an active fantasy life. In Quick in Quarrel the soldier, dreaming of being a minister, tries to adapt to war through the prism of his religious upbringing. In Justice, a fifty year old farm couple balk at having to "start over again." In Mewling and Puking, Wonder is handed his candle, "to see." In Sans Every Thing, ancient Doc, somewhat out of touch with reality, dreams over his life; this last work has a beautifully ambiguous ending: Is the last page real, or just what he wishes?
Comment: Over the centuries many (this century, for one, Thornton Wilder) have attempted works on the Seven Ages of Man theme, without success. The common, if not invariable mistake, apparently was in take the ages in order.
Inference: Our perception of Truth changes as we mature.
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Merely Players, 1988
Critique: "'Merely Players' may be the best jazz novel ever written - surely it is the best novel ever written describing the unique relationship between two jazz artists, in partnership..." - National Public Radio
Comment: If Ms Tuesday, (Janet Twombly) restless, moving, expectant, is the World, ministerial candidate Dan Prescott, black poet John Bar Nelson, jazz pianist David MacFarlane, Saxophonist Chump Hardy each perceives her (and pursues her, through Boston, New York, London, Paris, until she spins out of sight) very differently. A cubist novel?
Inference: This is difficult. Do we ever discover what Ms Tuesday expects? Does she know? Do we ever know what the World really expects of us?
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Wise Saws, -
Comment: Contents unknown. Expected is a volume of short stories, some bridging the life stories of Dan Prescott, David MacFarlane, etc., or at least bridging some of the themes in "Time Squared Quartet." Also expected in this volume are some of Mcdonald's published short stories he calls his "chestnuts", such as "The Nine Best Movies," "The Criminals," "The Robbery."
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A World Too Wide, 1987
Comment: Generational peers from the Quartet come together on David MacFarlane's Southern farm as middle aged, variously shopworn people. Key quote from the book: "People become more themselves as they get older." Much of their individual human natures are resolved, revealed, some shockingly.
Inference: Which is more important: Our perception of Truth; or just of who and what we care about?
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The Brave, 1991
(preferred title [French]: "Rafael, Last Days")
Subject: Rafael agrees to sacrifice himself in the most grizzly way imaginable to rescue his family from their homeless life as toxic- waste dump pickers.
Critique: "(An) unflinching portrayal of a resourceful young man negotiating a malignant dystopian landscape...No part of the scene, not even one sentence, is prurient..." - New York Times Book Review
Critique: At the conclusion of an hour long discussion on EuroArts Channel (at which Mr. Mcdonald participated), the critic-moderator said, "With no insult intended to any author, living or dead, quite simply stated, Gregory Mcdonald's "Rafael, derniers jours" is one of the two or three greatest novels ever written."
Comment: In France, this novel was voted Trophees 813 - Best Foreign Novel, 1977. Considered a revolting work by some, a great love story by others, a philosophical, sociological, theological, religious, political monument by many, shocking by all. Once read, this book can never be forgotten.
Inference: In true love there is sacrifice; have we forgotten?
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