I was scanning the shelves in search of my own books at the local library a few days ago* when I spotted The Might Have Been by Joseph M. Schuster. Of course, when I first spotted the book, the author’s first name was covered by stickers reading “NEW” and “F – SCH,” so all I could see was M. Schuster.
Needless to say, my first thought was, “Wow! I forgot that I even wrote that one!”
Furthering the impression that I’d discovered one of my own lost works, the publisher’s description suggests that The Might Have Been resonates with a lot of the themes in my own writing: “Schuster’s absorbing debut novel resonates with the pull of lifelong dreams, the stings of regret, and the ways we define ourselves against uncertain twists of fate.”
Upon further inspection, however, I learned the truth: I had not, in fact, written The Might Have Been. Nor was the praise lavished upon this book (by none other than Richard Russo**) directed at my work: “Surely destined to join the ranks of transcendent baseball novels.” Granted, I’ve never written about baseball in my life, but I was willing to let this little detail slide if Russo was.
But, alas, it was not meant to be. The byline on the book attributed the novel to a gentleman named Joseph. And while we both teach college English and clearly share a love of writing, Joseph teaches at Webster University and, by the looks of his author photo, has mastered the art of growing a mustache. I, by way of contrast, have not.
The big dilemma, it would now seem, is how to deal with the confusion that’s bound to ensue. After all, if even I, one of the authors in question, was stymied by the situation, then how can the publishing industry expect mere readers to parse this subtlest of distinctions?
The only solution, I fear is war.*** Just as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series sparked a long-term feud between fans of Edward and Jacob, fate has writ a new feud among readers young and old alike. To wit: Are you a Joseph or a Marc?
To settle this matter, readers everywhere will need to buy books by both Schusters. And in order for those in the Joseph camp to make the most compelling argument against me, I heartily recommend that they buy all of my books, including both editions of Wonder Mom. (Hint: If you really want to dig up dirt on me, there’s a ton of quasi-intellectual quackery in both of my nonfiction books!)
So choose sides if you must, but be sure to do so wisely! Fans of Joseph, be sure to read my books, starting with The Grievers! And to my own fans, I beseech thee, do not cast judgment until you have read Joseph’s excellent work, which is available wherever fine books are sold. Only by thoroughly studying each of our
oeuvres will you come to an informed decision.
* Yes, I do this every time I visit.
** Of course, I have a great one from Robin Black, so I’m not sweating it either: “The Grievers is a an extraordinary weave of humor, insight and intelligence. Marc Schuster has written a perfect comic novel, one that never strays far from either poignance or hilarity. You will read it with the grateful sense of being in on the discovery of an exciting new literary voice.”
*** Not a literal war, of course. We’re English professors, after all.