Friday, May 27, 2005

Robert Fulgham footnote...

...or maybe I should call it "end-note." This looks more like the end of something than part of an ongoing process.

Today someone left this curious note to Robert Fulgham as a comment on one of my posts from May 3.

Dear Mr.Fulgham...MY wife and I read your books many years ago.We tried desperately to recall your name and asked many acquaintances through email, face to face and all media to respond. Finally one friend emailed your name to us and made our day. We will inform all of them that you are still with us.When I wrote you long ago enclossing a poem about dandelions (a subject in your book) your wife sent us a lovely response from you.Now we researched you on google and will tell them you are still here. How are you and your wife doing? You reinfoced my feelings about the continuing beauty of what is called a weed and still warmly remembered....Roy Schoenberg

Something about the post must have led him to imagine that because Google had led him to that particular quote he thought he had found Mr. Fulgham.

I have been keeping up with Fulgham from time to time ever since I read Gerard Van der Leun's great story about how this uncontrollably creative gusher of a writer left the market-driven US publishing ratrace and went to Europe where he could enjoy time to breathe, write and experiment all at the same time. I had great fun blogging about it and took great satisfaction in saying "American publishers, eat your heart out."
Had he stayed in America he would have dried up like a raisin. Tom Wolfe he is not. Nor Frank McCourt. Guys like that have tough hides and laser vision. I also don't think they are into painting, sculpture or other non-literary forms, but I don't know that for sure.
Fulgham strikes me as a more vulnerable individual by comparison, too gentle to wield a blackjack in negotiations. He needs a more gentlemanly place to write and work. And certainly a place not seeking cookie-cutter writers whose value is measured more by volume than content. (I'm not referring to Wolfe or McCourt anymore, by the way. I'm talking about the pimping that publishers are apt to do to sell anything on paper.) Van der Leun said it well.

For reasons that I won't go into here, -- but may tell another time -- I've watched this publishing phenomenon from a unique, somewhat inside, perspective. Suffice it to say that for Fulghum and everyone else involved it was, for ten years, a wild ride. A ride that might have continued, as these publishing things do, for many more years except for one wild card in the equation, Robert Fulghum.

Fulghum is one of those rare individuals that you meet in life that are best described as: "A man who is himself." There's nothing in him that is derivative of others. Besides being a writer, Fulghum is also a painter, a sculptor, a Unitarian minister, a man who knows his whiskey and cigars, and his way around a poker table. He also plays a mean mandocello. For ten years he was in great demand as a speaker, and he still is. But there was a point at which he decided, against all advice to the contrary from the traditional publishing types in his karass, that he was tired of being "Captain Kindergarten," and he just folded up the tent and walked away.
You would think that American book-publishing, given a chance to innovate, and working with an author who has tens of millions of readers around the world, would jump at the chance to publish this in some form or another. And you would be dead wrong.

You'd be wrong because you fail to comprehend just how deep into American publishing the creative brain rot goes. When this book was "offered" to American publishers not one could even begin to imagine how it could be done, and not one could even bring themselves to take a flyer on finding out how it could be done. Every single one of them, as well as an agent or two, passed.

Were they right?

Of course not. They were wrong. They were, as most are, utterly unimaginative, uninformed, and stupefied. They were strapped to a profit and loss spreadsheet and with no vision of how to produce such a book. And it is not really hard to do. Believe me because I've done it. It is just that, in truth, the American trade book publishing industry has, over the past few decades, managed to push out the innovators and suck in the factory-workers when it comes to staffing their editorial offices.

(Don't hold back, Gerard. Tell us how you really feel.)
So back to Mr. Shoenberg.

I wanted to contact Mr. Fulgham to forward his fan mail, but I came into this...

Robert Fulghum does not have e-mail (business or personal). Really.He also does not have a cell phone. His books and appearances have generated an overwhelming amount of correspondence. He would love to be able to receive and respond to it all, but the truth is, his commitments to writing, traveling and family make this not possible. He would have to clone himself—and anyone who knows him will testify that that would be too much. So, kindly accept his apologies and then take a good look at the above photograph and ask yourself if you really would want to get a hold of this person.
-Emily Phipps, Assistant to Mr. Fulghum

I don't do photos, so if you want to see the picture go to the link and check it out.

When I try to reach Mr. Shoenberg I get a hosted site about cats and cat poetry, but no email contact for Mr. Shoenberg. I'm composing this post as a way of pulling together all these loose ends, so that in the event that contact is made, the story will be laid out and ready to read.

Meantime, thanks for reading.
I am open to suggestions about how to contact Mr. Shoenberg, but I am not keenly motivated to do much more. He had the same access to the internet that we all do, and he aparently has his own keyboard and knows how to do a Google search. Good luck to him on his Quixotic efforts.

It would seem that Robert Fulgham is about to join that elite club of reclusive creative people whose egos are healthy enough that public scrutiny is not on their need list. I find that to be a definite plus in my book. A few names come to mind: Harper Lee and Kurt Vonnegut are private people. The late Johnny Carson was a sterling example of how to live life to the fullest and go out at the top of your game. I heard on the radio today that Eddie Albert died at the age of ninety-nine. There could be a fairly long list of accomplished people who value privacy over ego-stroking. If that is what he wants to do, I say good on Robert Fulgham for joining them.


Gerard said...

Be of good cheer. I've made a print out of this item and mailed it off to Fulghum.

He's out of the country for some months, but he'll get it by and by.

Roy Schoenberg said...

Hello, I am Roy Schoenberg and just went into your site accidently.I do not recall how my email to Mr. Fulghum got to your website. Otherwise I would have replied to you long ago.

Meanwhile, Hootsberry is very interesting. When I originally wrote this letter to him, we received a response,from his wife that he does NOT answer mail..Consequently, I am not sure how I got to you..

I am a retired school administrator.. I write my poetry on two sites,
www.Poets Against the War