I received an interesting criticism of my book today, posted by way of a comment on my blog.

I have to say, the picture on the back of your book perfectly sums up my general opinion of you, David.

You appear to be in some kind of Halloween costume. Jack Kerouac, I presume. How clever.

First off, you are “hitchhiking” on a dirt trail. Who are you expecting to pick you up? Completed (sic) staged. Buttoned down white shirt. Bright, clean and white. Wow, you must’ve been really living “On The Road,” right? Fake. I heard all the Beats traveled with cameras, backpacks, and briefcases. Oh, and over-sized aviator sunglasses of course. Funny, appears to be a bit overcast day in your photo. Sensitive eyes?

My guess is this is a bad photo op from some vacation you took. Painfully-staged “evidence” of hitchhiking abroad, living free, being on the road… Some half-witted attempt to feel like your (sic) walking in the path of your idols. Those you try so hard to imitate.

As I said, this photo sums you up. Fake, staged, phony. You remind of me a bad cover band. Desperately imitating true artists in an attempt to bask in their second-hand glory. Regurgitating their revelations with the depth of a kiddy pool. Putting on a bad costume and shouting “Yeah, me too!”

Quit jerking off drunk to faded pictures of Hunter, Jack, and Allen. You’re only making a fool of yourself.

To the first charge – of using a photo that was clearly staged – I plead guilty, your honour, but request leniency. Name one author whose author photo was taken without his or her knowledge. Unless I trawled Facebook for some drunken KTV shot taken by a friend, in which I was prominently tagged, I’d be unlikely to find a single photo that I didn’t authorize. Additionally, by actually agreeing to have the photo placed on the cover of the book, I’d surely be an accessory after the fact.

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So Brad… can I call you Brad?

Sure, for now.


Ten years ago, after you made a couple of appearances on national television and a book of yours was getting some attention, a widely-read newspaper columnist wrote a little piece about you.

I don’t think I like where this is going…


If memory serves, the opening line was: “Brad Herzog. Remember the name. He just might be the next Stephen King or John Grisham.”

(rubs temples and winces) And your point is?


I’m just wondering… What do you think of that now, a decade later? Hmmm….?

Three words come to mind: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”


Surely, the guy had a sense of your literary potential…

Absolutely, except that he hadn’t read anything I’d written… And he was a TV columnist… For USA Today, which is the Hannah Montana of newspapers. I’ll just settle for people remembering my name.


Obviously not, given your latest narcissistic endeavor, TURN LEFT AT THE TROJAN HORSE. Okay, it’s a travel memoir. I can understand the travel part – a cross-country jaunt to a college reunion. Fine. Lots of angst and Angus cows. But look at the other memoirs published this year – there’s one written by a playboy, a dominatrix, an internationally successful model, even a master falconer…

Don’t forget Laura Bush.


That’s what I’m saying. You don’t own a whip and high heels. You don’t know a peregrine from a pelican. You didn’t sleep with a guy who had one finger on the button and the other nine on Mad magazine. You’re just an average schmuck like me.

Essentially, yes. And him (points to imaginary bystander in the room, who turns tail and runs).


Who?

Everyone. Most guys, at least. I have a wife, two kids, an unfathomable mortgage, aches where I didn’t know I had muscles, professional frustration where I wasn’t aware I had ambition. Frankly, while I’ve been entertained by the memoirs of heroin addicts and Hall of Famers, I’ve never been particularly enlightened. How accessible can it be if I can’t see hints of myself in the protagonist’s journey?


So you took off on your own journey – a road trip toward your alma mater in Ithaca, New York…

Right. And I revisited the original hero’s journey – the homeward voyage of Odysseus, King of Ithaka – by passing through tiny hamlets like Troy (Oregon), Calypso (Montana), Siren (Wisconsin) and Apollo (Pennsylvania). I channeled Socrates (“The unexamined life is not worth living”) and Kerouac (“The road is life”) and cobbled together an early midlife memoir of an Everyman in search of the hero within.


You’ve been working on that one, huh?

Guilty.


Fine. So it’s more than your usual travel memoir. I’d even call it epic yet intimate.

Oh, that’s good. I’ll have to use that.


But the Greek mythology? Really? Didn’t we suffer enough in high school?

Nah. We just didn’t learn it right. Those myths are a sort of collective unconscious, embedded with universal truths. We weren’t made in the image of gods. The gods and heroic archetypes – those crazy stories passed through the ages – were created in our images, reflecting our fears and our fantasies.


Are you supposed to be Odysseus?

Nope. It’s the other way around. He’s just a manifestation of my psyche. He is me.


You mean, he is I.

Yep, you too.


You arrogant bastard.

Hardly. Odysseus is the prototype of the flawed fictional hero. At times, he could be hypocritical, unfaithful, merciless, an astoundingly unsuccessful leader, physically unimposing. Even one-eyed Polyphemus called him a “short, worthless-looking runt.”


You know you’re no physical marvel if you’re being dissed by a Cyclops.

He’s why Superman falls prey to kryptonite, why Sherlock Holmes prefers his seven-percent solution…


Why Indiana Jones hates snakes.

Exactamundo.


Now you’re channeling Arthur Fonzarelli?

It’s in my DNA. I dressed up as the Fonz for about six Halloweens in a row. Slicked back my hair with Brylcreem.


You should have used Rogaine.

Now I’m going to kick your ass.