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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 07/19/2004
Vol. 2, #132

You'd think that living way out here in this sparsely populated rural swathe of farmland where you can't even hear your nearest neighbor's dog bark, that unexpected visitors would be rare. But in the eight years I've been living here with my wife, we've experienced just the reverse. We get visited by the oddest, rarest, most unbelievable personalities you ever want to hear about, some of whom I never even knew existed. Like yesterday.

There's the dingdong from the front door bell. We look out. Can't see who's at the door but we should be able to see a car in the driveway. But there's no car. Somebody walked here?

It's a bit of a trek. But I open the door anyway. A lady is standing out on the front porch. Kind of hazy looking--actually--of uncertain age, uncertain dress--wearing a kind of long thin robe and a small hood over a head of hair that's luxuriant but graying. Fiftyish, maybe?

"Yes?" I say.

She smiles at me. "Hello, Alvin."

I think hard for a moment. "Do I know you?"

"Not as well as I know you."

I've heard that one before. A lot of people know about me because of stuff like Superman and Batman and An Unlikely Prophet and The Blowtop and The Shattering Presence--yes--even this column. So just maybe--

"No," she said firmly, "I'm not one of them,"--as though she had guessed my thoughts.

"Then--?" I knew something strange was coming off. Not the first time either. You live way out here in the middle of almost nowhere and somehow that brings more unexpected visitors to your door than if I'd lived in the middle of Times Square. There's some kind of law about that, but I haven't figured it out yet.

"If I told you I'm an angel, would that trouble you?" she said.

"By now," I confessed, "I'm ready for anything. after eight years out here. No--it wouldn't trouble me. And I might even believe you."

"Actually," she said, "there are no angels where I come from. But it's the best I can do. I'm limited by your special human focus on reality. So--let's say I'm something like an angel--but not quite."

She didn't look dangerous or frightening. In fact she had a kind of warming presence. Besides, out here, we have little fear of strangers, especially pleasant looking gray haired older ladies, so I held the door wider and invited her in. "Well--don't stand out there. Come in and tell me what you can do for us," I said, noting that Kay was standing in the hallway too by now and had heard it all.

"No--no--we need a favor from you, actually." She stepped into the hallway but wouldn't go any further, although she offered a friendly nod to Kay.

"What kind of favor?" I asked.

"It has to do with one of your books. You've got to get it circulated as soon as possible. It's a very important work--I mean--in the sense that it will affect your readers in a way that we want to see happen. An important element of world enrichment."

"My book?" I said, incredulously. "From me?"

"One of your books," she explained.

"Which one?"

She shook her head. "I don't know."

"I've got five books ready," I said. "Two of them are out now, waiting to hear from the publishers."

"It could be one of those," she said. "But all I know, there's an Alvin Schwartz book that needs to get out there and you've got to do everything to see that it does."

"It's not exactly up to me," I said. "Publishing is a very iffy business these days."

"One of my publishers, who seems to have gone off his rocker as far as I can tell, is sitting on three thousand copies and can't make up his mind on what to do with them while the dealers are screaming for more copies. Another publisher is looking at The Shattering Presence. For some time now. And still another is looking at one called The Abstract Expressionist Man. Then there are the new versions of Prophet and A Gathering of Selves--and there's The Consuming Impulse and--"

"Just the same," she interrupted, "you've got to do more. Which book? We have no way of telling. But maybe if you asked your readers--they can tell you. They've mostly heard about everything you've done recently."

"And--they'll tell me what--?" But just as I said it, the mysterious lady faded and was gone.

Just like that. I don't know what she was really talking about except that it happened and she seemed to think it was important. So--I'm asking you--readers of this column--what do you think?

What book could she have been talking about? You've heard about all of them. Any ideas?

Send them to the Round Table. This time I really need some good suggestions from you. I'm absolutely flamboozled about this one. So--any suggestions out there?


<< 07/12/2004 | 07/19/2004 | 07/26/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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