For authors, it's all in the (same) name
Dan Kennedy has a book coming out. The question is: Which Dan Kennedy? There is Dan Kennedy the media critic for The BostonPhoenix. His book, "Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes," is coming out in the fall. (His daughter Rebecca is a dwarf.) This Dan Kennedy was somewhat distraught when he picked up a prepublication copy of "Loser Goes First," a forthcoming memoir by . . . Dan Kennedy.
DK1, as I shall call him, consulted both his book editor and agent, pointing out that there was still time to change his writing name to "Daniel Kennedy" or "Daniel D. Kennedy." Their advice: Don't worry.
But DK1's apprehensions were well grounded. Shortly after sighting "Loser," written by DK2, who is a humor columnist for McSweeney's magazine, DK1 received the following e-mail: "Hi Dan, I recently purchased your `New Psycho-Cybernetics' audio program and have enjoyed it very much. I've already seen a substantial improvement in my clarity, productivity, and creative expressions. Thank you." His correspondent, Tim Hutton (no, not the actor), had confused him with yet another Dan Kennedy. This would be DK3, a sales and marketing guru in Phoenix.
That Dan Kennedy -- a "get rich quick quy," as the McSweeney's writer calls him -- publishes, well, get-rich-quick advice from his website, at www.dankennedy.com. "Make Million$ With Your Ideas!" is a DK3 maxim. As it happens, several of his disciples have already purchased DK2's memoir from Amazon.com, hoping to mine more gems from the real Dan Kennedy. "The irony is that my book is about being a complete failure at making money in marketing," says "Loser Goes First" author DK2. Dan Kennedy at the Phoenix (not in Phoenix) offers this advice to Kennedy-philes on his website, www.dankennedy.net: "Can't decide? Buy all our books. But buy mine first." Our antiquated naming system continues to bedevil us. Many a science-fiction writer has proposed using numbers, or bar codes, instead of names. Perhaps the answer lies in the newer technology of implantable RFID, or radio frequency identification chips. In one application, these tiny transmitters might be sewn into a garment by a retailer. When you reentered the store where you bought the pants or dress in question, the unit would broadcast information to the store's computer, e.g.: "This guy paid $60 for Taiwanese chinos last time. Easy mark approacheth."
Or something like that.
My RFID chip would conveniently inform strangers: "This is Alex Beam the writer for The Boston Globe. Not Alex Beam the starting pitcher for the Allegheny Pirates in 1889." I think you can see why this new technology is generating so much excitement.
How else would we be able to tell Richard Cheney, the former chief of the public-relations firm Hill & Knowlton, who has launched a second career as a psychoanalyst, from Richard Cheney the vice president? (Here is one possibility: Cheney the shrink practices his trade in a disclosed location: Manhattan.) Or the writer Russell Baker from the writer Russell Baker?
Russell Baker, who has the same middle initial as the retired New York Times columnist, now writes under the byline Russ Baker. On one occasion, the Times columnist sent him a check that had been mis-addressed. "He probably didn't get checks that small," Russ Baker commented. And, inevitably, the two men met. "My namesake looked at me, a fellow of no particular note or concern to him," Baker the lesser wrote in a New York Times essay, "smiled, grabbed my hand, and with tremendous grace and good humor declared, `I've always wanted to meet you.' "
A while back, one of the three writing Lee Siegels wrote a funny column in The New Republic about his namesakes. One is a professor at the University of Hawaii who wrote a sporty novel called "Love in a Dead Language" that I once picked up in my local library. It's about the Kama Sutra; I ended up being late for supper. Another Lee Siegel is a science writer in Salt Lake City.
I am pretty sure the essayist for The New Republic is the same Lee Siegel who has written some excellent, pointed criticism for Harpers magazine. But when I called Harpers, he never called back. Perhaps his RFID chip will soon be transmitting to my computer, and we can get all this straightened out.
Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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