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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 08/19/2002
Volume 2, Number 45

I am Not Alvin Schwartz

If you go to one of the major search engines like Google and type in Alvin Schwartz, you'll get reams of stuff-about Unlikely Prophet, about this column, about The Blowtop, my recently reprinted first novel---PLUS a bunch of books for children, Like Scary Stories, and Sticking a Carrot Up Your Nose (or something like that.) Lots of such children's stories WHICH I DID NOT WRITE!

Because I am not THAT Alvin Schwartz I am THIS Alvin Schwartz. The fact is, there are two Alvin Schwartzes. One of them wrote many, many children's stories, and, in fact, he was good at what he did. Now, the truth is,he was born some years after me and died some years ago, and even though I note from a lot of corroborative material that his children's stories were really good children's stories, he continues to haunt me, all unknowingly, in the most improbable ways. For example, his kid's books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble's web sites and so are mine. But I write for grown-ups, and, in fact, for grown-ups who are very grown up. Some of my material is difficult. But try to tell that to Amazon or B&N, who continue to announce my very grownup books by declaring them to be written for the 9 to 12 age group! Then they go on to quote the reviews that reveal very quickly that no one under the age of sixteen has even a hope of being able to read them. I've written letters, called, tried to contact these web sites and they simply don't respond. Why even my Superman and Batman stories, almost all my comics, are not reading material for the very young.

Yet when I call up the books of Alvin Schwartz, I get the entire list of THAT Alvin Schwartz and THIS Alvin Schwartz, all bundled together. On Amazon, when you examine what people bought who also bought Alvin Schwartz, you get some really weird combinations. All of which demonstrates that these famous web sites, Amazon especially are not run by people at all but by computer programs that simply are incapable of understanding that more than one Alvin Schwartz can exist.

This is not an uncommon problem. In one of my elementary school classes in the Bronx, there were actually three Alvin Schwartzes! Also there was Bob Kane. But that's another story. In addition, I guess you didn't know there were also TWO William Faulkners, and, in fact, all sorts of doubles among writers. That's not the problem. The problem is the hopeless, obdurate, persistent deafness of the major book websites, Amazon and B&N.

So I need help. So does the other Alvin Schwartz who, unfortunately is in a place where he can't do anything about it. So I'm writing this column because I really need your help. I need as many of you as possible to contact Amazon and B&N and try to penetrate their so far impenetrable precincts and tell them the terrible truth. The more of you who try to enlighten the operators of these sites, the more likely someone might manage to break through and reveal the bitter consequence. They're probably losing tons of business because they're telling people they can find similar books for one writer who is totally dissimilar to the other. I mean-just think of the mass confusion that can result when a reader of STICKING A CARROT UP YOUR NOSE (or something like that) is told that similar kinds of stories can be found by reading Immanuel Kant or James Joyce or Samuel Beckett. And on the other hand, Unlikely Prophet readers can find similar stories by reading Tales of Mother Goose, or The Decline and Fall of Humpty-Dumpty. You see what confusion this can sow among masses of readers?

Now, all of you out there who follow this column and who happen to be the kind of people who like to write me personal letters instead of communicating through the Round Table-partly because you don't want people to know what unkosher ideas you dabble in-and partly because you share with me a certain introspectiveness that leans toward one-on-one communication-this time you've got to venture into a little creative activism to help me out. I'm really very tired of being two very different people at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So please make whatever efforts you can think of to wise up these two sites that they're making a terrible mistake. The times are confusing enough as it is, not to mention that we even have a confused President of the United States. So whatever any of you can do to alleviate even a mite of the confusion, like separating the two Alvin Schwartzes-would be a valuable social contribution to make. But be warned. It's a challenge.

The people running these two sites are hidden behind a very heavy barrier. I haven't been able to get anywhere with them, as I explained, but I don't really specialize in this kind of thing. But you smart people who read this column-well, a few of you may just know how to proceed. So please-give it a try. And whether you succeed or not, drop the fastidiousness for a moment, contact the Round Table and let us all know what happened. Please???

--Alvin

<< 08/12/2002 | 08/19/2002 | 08/26/2002 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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