Sunday 25 March 2007

The day I was mistaken for an author.

I want to start an occasional series of anecdotal posts about travelling. First up, a trip to Europe in November 2001 that took me and Anne through Singapore. Earlier I had answered a few email questions for my pal Cheng tju ( who once gave me an old copy of Malaysian artist Lat's Town Boy, soon to be published in the States by my publisher First Second) to put together an article for the Straits Times, the English language paper of Singapore, in connection with the upcoming release of the From Hell movie. I had sent ahead an official photo from a set that Liz Pickering recently came round and shot as my last set was taken some ten years previously and they were starting to look like a memento of some other bloke.
Anyway, we boarded the 707 of Singapore Airlines at Brisbane airport November 10 and grabbed a newspaper to browse, when there in front of me was my own mug.

You should be able to click-enlarge that enough to read it. BUT THE ARTICLE WAS ABOUT SIMON WINCHESTER !!!- author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne( 1998).
"(from interview) There's a book by Jonathan Green called Chasing the Sun, which is a history of dictionary making. And I was actually reading this book in the bath one winter's day about two years ago. And there was a footnote which said, you know, in a rather offhand way that, of course, readers will be familiar with the extraordinary story of Dr. W. C. Minor, the American lunatic murderer who was imprisoned in Broadmoor and became a prolific contributor to the OED.
I remember vividly sitting up in the bath and saying I've never heard of this story. And I rang one person in your office, Elizabeth Knowles, who you'll know well, I dare say, and said, "Elizabeth, do you know anything--" well, first of all, I apologized and said, "It's rather vulgar. I'm calling you from my bath in America, but do you know anything about this chap called W. C. Minor?"
And she said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I know rather more about him than most people because I wrote a paper about him for a journal, a quarterly, I think, published in Madison, Wisconsin called "Dictionaries." And if you'd like, if you get out of the bath, I'll fax it to you and you can read it when you're'toweling yourself dry," and so she did.
And I read it and I thought if I can get access to the Broadmoor files on this man, then perhaps there's rather a good book to be written."

Cheng Tju, when we met up with him at the other end of the flight, was crestfallen. Eddie Campbell was in fits of mirth. The Campbell piece appeared a month later with the same photo, confirming in the minds of many in Asia that English people all look alike. As for Simon Winchester, did he get a tearsheet from his publisher's publicity department and wonder who the Hell that other bloke is?

Will the real Simon Winchester please stand up?

I know what it is! it's that thing we do with the hand on the chin, isn't it.

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Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one, who would love it if you would turn some of your anecdotal posts into anecdotal comics. The artist lives on. Also, I was sure a mistake had been made at Wizard World LA, when I introduced myself to Dame Darcy (of The Cobweb and her own comic Meatcake) and she told me that she'd heard of me. I wondered if there was someone else using that name, but she then named some of my work. It must work both ways.

25 March 2007 at 01:53:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the copy boy was asked for the most soul searching thumb on the chin shot he could find

25 March 2007 at 02:48:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Campbell -

I just wanted to thank you for your blog on February 24th.

I posted a comment on that blog, but wanted to make sure I was able to pass on my appreciation.

Mike Choi

25 March 2007 at 05:38:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't see any difference

B Smith

25 March 2007 at 05:38:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

Have you read his book, at least ?
It is quite an interesting story.

25 March 2007 at 06:05:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But.......are you really sure that you're Eddie Campbell? Maybe your lives got swapped at some point via quantum singularity or mysterious gardening accident? The Singapore paper gave you a brief glimpse behind the Dickian (as in Philip K) veil.

25 March 2007 at 08:28:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Johnny Walker said...

Beneath "your" article: "Alternate reality Singapore"... It's a if the newspaper was trying to tell you something!

25 March 2007 at 16:46:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

While wandering around at the Salon du Livre in Paris (enormous bookfair full of wonderful! gorgeous! beautiful! books -- all of which were in French, hoodathunkit) I noticed that all the poor writers had to do their signings directly beneath an enlarged poster-sized print of their Author Photo. In their photo they would look stern, full of serious beard-stroking thoughts, hair dark and brow furrowed: the wee guy signing the books would be in a beige cardigan looking a bit lonely.

Except for Lewis Trondheim who was just as mad and interesting looking in real life. He didn't sign books for his enormous line -- he created entirely unique blobby alien creatures by folding the front page in half and sploodging ink on it, folding it over, sploodging a little more and so on. He'd then hand the book over to the fan, open, with a wet brown inky picture on it, which they'd carefully carry around the fair for a good couple of hours before finally closing it, travelling at a speed one only sees when someone's attempting to carry a particularly full bowl of soup from one room to the next.

25 March 2007 at 18:54:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note also how our two subjects are both fingering their chins with their right hands...

25 March 2007 at 19:02:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

I did not see this guy wearing a beige cardigan (aargh ! the thought !) or being anywhere like even remotely lonely...

26 March 2007 at 01:44:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

no, this is an anecdote that is perfectly made for a blog. If It were to make a good comic page i'd have put it in After the Snooter.

glad the compliment found you eventually.

(psst .. no i haven't read... it's on that shelf woith all the other books i metioned a few weeks back). And hayley says she met you in Paris!!! wonderful!

Yes, I deliberately kept that "allternate reality' as part of the cutting. Too good to leave out, eh?

ANd, you know, John C. i only found that pose with the chin quite by accident. the last thing i had to do was round up a photo of the subject and the similarirty of the poses was the final piece of coincidence i needed. This started out as a quick post to buy me some time to get on with my other work... those ones always end up being monsters for some evil reason...


26 March 2007 at 01:58:00 GMT-5  
Blogger spacedlaw said...

I was glad to have met her.
I have taken a few pictures of her as well.

26 March 2007 at 02:58:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind the "Alternate reality Singapore" headline; "Time-traveller arrives" is the real clue to what's going on here. It's like in the TV show "Quantum Leap" where the time-travelling hero takes the place of other people: everyone he meets sees him as the person he's replacing, but we see him looking like Scott Bakula. Eddie, it seems clear to me that in the future you're going to become a time-traveller and "leap" into the place of Simon Winchester... "to put right what once went wrong". Best of luck getting home!

26 March 2007 at 08:50:00 GMT-5  

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