The weekly prompt from my Florida writers' group was to write a book review featuring the word invisible. Here for your amusement is the piece I submitted. NEW YORK TIMES #1 BESTSELLER HOPEFUL FROM HERE TO OBSCURITY by Hy Perbulley Book Review by Times Critic Cara Fulreader New York, NY - April 19, 2022 - High School Valedictorian. Deans List. Phi Beta Kappa. Rhodes Scholar. Nobel Laureate. These highly-esteemed honours, although coveted by young Algernon Entatty, the subject of this forgettable biography, were never attained. According to author Hy Perbulley, Entatty’s story begins in 1949 when he was born to an unmarried mother living in a squalid third-floor walk-up in a dilapidated tenement building in a run-down neighborhood in New York City. The baby was his unfortunate mother’s first and only child. Nothing is known of his first five years, but his ten years in grade school ended with a mercy-rule promotion to high school when he was fifteen. Six years later, he left school after grade eleven to join the army. In his seven years of service, during which period he achieved the rank of Private, 2nd Class, he saw reluctant combat duty in Vietnam. According to the author, Entatty surrendered five times to the enemy, but was promptly returned each time. At the time of his discharge, he was the only American soldier ever to have been deemed unfit for duty by both sides, a distinction he holds to this day. Following his military service, shortly after the death of his mother who had never married, he began to openly profess a belief that he must have been the offspring of a virgin birth. Over the next five years, he tried to align himself closely with the Billy Graham Crusades, following the famous evangelist from city to city, proclaiming himself the Chosen One. The author writes that, in 1980, Entatty began to openly solicit funds from Christian believers under the Graham letterhead---all donations to be sent to the address of a squalid third-floor walk-up in a dilapidated tenement building in a run-down neighborhood in New York City. These fundraising efforts continued until the Graham organization obtained a restraining order. Almost nothing is known of the next two decades of Entatty’s life, but at the age of fifty he burst into nationwide prominence on the cover of a national tabloid magazine, Police Court Gazette. Possessing a strong resemblance to an infamous Mexican drug-cartel boss, El Crapo, Entatty was mistakenly arrested, charged, and convicted in New York, where he was sentenced to thirty-five years in federal prison. The author tells us that Entatty's picture continued to appear frequently in tabloids and television newscasts for the next half-dozen years, however, because his imprisonment did not result in the reduction in the volume of drug trafficking expected by the authorities. They claimed he must have been managing the vast criminal enterprise from behind bars, a premise no one who knew him believed even remotely possible. Entatty was eventually exonerated when the real El Crapo---embarrassed that people were believing the remarkably incompetent Entatty could actually be him---surrendered to police in order to clear up the humiliating confusion and redeem his sullied reputation. The Bureau of Prisons quickly attempted to free Entatty, but after several fruitless searches through their records, they could not find him in the vast network of federal prisons. A Bureau spokesperson told the author, “It’s like he’s…y’know, a non-entity. He just disappeared. We can’t find him.” Hy Perbulley, who claims he first befriended Algernon Entatty as a prison pen-pal, told this reviewer by phone he has never met the man in person. He did spend time searching out close friends as part of his research, but finding none, resorted to interviewing anyone with even a passing acquaintance. Hardly anyone remembered him, and no one was able to tell him anything of the remotest interest about the man. Perbulley claims he is negotiating with a major film studio that is considering whether or not to option his book for a blockbuster movie, tentatively titled The Invisible Man. No independent confirmation of that claim has been obtained. Perbulley has since dropped from sight and remains unavailable for further comment. This paltry book, From Here to Obscurity, numbers forty pages in length, and may be read in one sitting, should anyone care to waste time doing so. It is not available in regular bookstores, but Perbulley said it may be ordered online for US$34.99 from the website--- www.ex-concon.com. The IP address for that site is located in a squalid third-floor walk-up in a dilapidated tenement building in a run-down neighborhood in New York City. BOOK RATING 1/4* (out of 10*)
Some friends were chatting recently in the park about the ins and outs of aging, a not-unusual activity for a group of greying septuagenarians, I suppose. After listening for awhile, I excused myself from that rather depressing conversation, preoccupied by the thought that there seem to be far more ins than outs as one grows older.
It’s as if the in-words are in, and the out-words are out. In roughly alphabetic order, I’ve identified some of those nasty in-things we were talking about.
The first was the inability to do many of the things we used to take for granted—running up the stairs, for example. It’s more likely now that we’ll fall down those stairs.
There is the foreboding spectre of incontinence lurking, an affliction that has already befallen some of my comrades—leaving them, to their chagrin, in-diapers.
Ailments such as that—and others too numerous to count—can be the source of a profound sense of indignity unless one is possessed of a massive sense of self-worth. We are lessened, somehow, when we lose our pride in self. As we read in Ecclesiastes, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!
With some of us (and I do concede for me, too), there can be a greater tendency toward infantile behaviour as we age, particularly when we don’t get our way—in a domestic disagreement, perhaps. Whenever I discover I am moving in that direction, I try to remind myself that my wife is not my mother, and so I should abjure childish behaviour.
That’s not always easy.
In many such situations, I find myself adopting a gratingly ingratiating manner in order to convert, or perhaps cajole, my wife to my way of thinking. Prostrating myself, as it were, to attain my desires.
Hah! Never happens.
So, when it doesn’t, and because I have fewer inhibitions now about my deportment, I occasionally fall into a visible funk, sink into a sulk, and refuse to talk further. I just clam up. But my silence, I’ve found, is always more appreciated by my wife than by me!
However, I am never so injudicious as to remain non-communicative for very long. Dinner-time inevitably rolls around, and my wife—the head-chef to my sous-chef/clean-up guy—is long-past the stage of guessing what I’d like for supper. If I don’t speak up, I could well be fasting ‘til dawn.
That possibility is at-all-costs to be avoided, for during the course of my seventy-plus years, I have learned that failure to eat leads my body to a virtually inoperative state, placing me indeed in-peril.
Despite all these puerile behaviours, I am quite a nice person (or so I’ve been led to believe by folks who are still my friends). Therefore, I try not to present as insufferable to those around me, lest they will no longer be.
Intransigence on my part—on any subject, at any time—is more likely to lead to a parting of the ways with my friends than to any kumbaya coming-together. So, I make every effort to remain amenable and open-minded. It kills me sometimes.
Perhaps the most difficult of the in-words as one ages is the realization that we risk becoming ever-more invisible—overlooked by the younger generations as they rush pell-mell through their daily routines. No one ever wants to think (s)he has become unimportant in the world we still inhabit, but many of us come to fear it is so.
Anyway, the next time I’m chatting with those same greybeards whose conversation prompted these gloomy contemplations, I think I’ll try to present them with some out-words that might lend a more optimistic tone to our stage of life.
Words like—outgoing, outlaughing, outliving, outplaying, outspokenness, outstretching, outperforming, outworking.
And outrageous. We greybeards need to be more outrageous.
We need more outs than ins!