Dispatches | April 01, 2011

April 1st seems as good a day as any to celebrate Dorky Day, which, it should be known to all—not only to those who’ve read William Kotzwinkle’s 1979 novel The Fan Man or its condensed version, “Horse Badorties Goes Out,” which appeared in Esquire in 1973—is that special day when you walk around saying “dorky dorky dorky” all day long because that’s what The Fan Man’s protagonist, Horse Badorties, does on Dorky Day, just can’t stop saying “dorky” (whether because of too many “Acapulco artichoke hearts” or because of the OCD tendencies or both), in what is one of those wonderful moments in a wonderful (in my view) book, the sort of book that you read and think, “You’re allowed to do that in a novel?”, even if the thing you didn’t know you were allowed to do, had never even considered doing, was to fill up a whole page with nothing but the word “dorky,” like Kotzwinkle does, which is one of the reasons why the man who wrote the novelization of the movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, its book-only sequel E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, and, of course, Walter the Farting Dog, is also the author of one of my all-time favorite novels, a novel with supreme silliness, a kind spirit, and I-can’t-believe-he’s-getting-away-with-this-in-a-novel-ed-ness, like, for instance, its opening paragraph, which reads:

I am all alone in my pad, man, my piled-up-to-the-ceiling-with-junk pad. Piled with sheet music, with piles of garbage bags bursting with rubbish and encrusted frying pans piled on the floor, embedded with unnameable flecks of putrified wretchedness in grease. My pad, man, my own little Lower East Side Horse Badorties pad.

as well as the chapter taking place on Dorky Day, which begins with the following paragraph:

“Dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky…”

this evidence probably being the exact opposite of the evidence I should be supplying to support my claim that Kotzwinkle’s novel about a street bum who becomes maestro to a Love Chorus of fifteen-year-old chicks rises above its gimmicks, if you will (though I won’t), to become something beautiful and beautifully comic and comically weird, one of those novels I find myself passing along to friends who need it, just as a former teacher once passed it along to me—which leads me to my reason for writing this post, which is to ask you to please share a favorite “lost classic” book, one that we probably don’t know about but should, a request I’m making because the sharing of good books is very much in the spirit of Dorky Day, which today happens to be, dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky dorky.

Michael Kardos (michaelkardos.com) is the author of the story collection One Last Good Time. While earning his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he served as Contest Editor for The Missouri Review. He currently co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

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