Twelve starts the narrator has made in writing this letter. Trying to find the right word. Troubled by his own knowing that the right word will be the wrong word. He says he is trying out voices.
He is confiding in Mr. Capote, as in Truman Capote. His newest confidant. The newest receptor of this personal letter. Norman Mailer was his first choice, but he did not last. Norman did not play his cards right. Norman played this narrator for a fool.
This is the word he will start with. So his first sentence begins, “This is the twelfth start of the letter I am sending.”
The narrator says he has already made a new start on this letter ten other times. And he has saved them all as examples to be given. But another time he tossed an even different start out. But the latest time, the last time, the twelfth time, he kept that first word this. And why twelve starts? Because he is serious. He is sending this letter. He is mailing it. And he is large, and he is feeling large, and it is important that this letter be written. He will also say enough times in this letter, “I am large.”
The final letter will result in two-hundred and sixty-four pages of text. Pages and pages of large words like effectuate, capstone, impediment, and disdain. There are also words like snickersnee and paraldehyde. Not to mention the words pulmotor and authorized. Every word taken from the Word-a-Day calendar.
By the time he is finished writing his letter to Truman Capote the letter will have become a story. A long story. A novel. And we will know Davie very well. For Davie is the one with the voice. He is the one trying out voices. Except he thinks Davie is his brother who drowned years ago. And Davie was not well then. But he thinks he is dead. Davie is not dead. And Davie is still not well. Davie is killing people. And using his words to do it. Like capstone. But he is not only using his words to kill, but his knife, Paki, too. Paki as in Pakistan. I believe, if I remember correctly, that he found Paki by the water cooler. In the bank in which he works. He sets each victim up with a word from the Word-a-Day calendar, and then pop! he pops them right in the eye with his Paki. It does something to their brain. The words do. And then Paki does too.
In the letter there is some reference to a Mr. Berkowitz, the killer, the Son of Sam monster. And Davie intends on eclipsing Mr. Berkowitz’s record for serial killings by killing one person for every year of his life which is now fixed at forty-seven years. Davie has amassed a number of twenty-three dead thus far.
And the woman he loves, Janet R., he is not married to. Davie is married to T.C., or Tamara Chris, and has been for ten years. They have a small son he talks to on walkie-talkies. “Red Dog, Red Dog this is Blue Dog calling, come in.”
What elements make up this madman’s life? Does it matter that just hearing the name of Buddy Brown makes him feel sweaty? That the words pica and inch feel sweaty too? That the name Barbara Luddy makes him think brown eyes? That Ann Shepherd was really Scheindel Kadish who played Hope Evans on Big Sister and who also played Pearl Taggart on Our Gal Sunday? That Bill Lido has “great hair”? Or that Bill Lido was the voice behind, “This is radio for all America, the Mutual Broadcasting System”? Or what about Ben Bernie saying “Yowsah, yowsah, yowsah”? Words. All of them words. And with them, fascination.
Lish, Gordon- DEAR MR. CAPOTE
NY: Four Walls Eight Windows 1996
$12.95 (Paper) ISBN: 1-56858-079-7
M Sarki, Review of Gordon Lish’s DEAR MR. CAPOTE, Associated Content