A letter and article in the mail. "My name is Gerald...

I GOT

July 06, 1995|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

I GOT a letter and article in the mail. "My name is Gerald Davenport," it begins, "and I am currently looking into running for President, as well as forming a new political party."

Well, why not? Everybody else is.

My problem with Gerald's candidacy is that he needs a good speech writer. "I am faxing to all the different newspapers around the country in hopes of getting an article I've wrote printed." So I would say to Gerald that the first thing he'd better do is hire a speech writer who knows the difference between "wrote" and "written." If one reads this and would like to come to his aid, write him at P.O. Box 430, Silver Creek, Ga., 30173.

* * * * *

Gerald is no Unabomber. He merely asks to have his manifesto printed: "I would appreciate if you could see fit to print the article." The Unabomber has demanded of the New York Times and the Washington Post that they print his 35,000-word manifesto on the evils of technology. He said if his work is printed, he'll stop blowing up people. But if it is not . . .

The newspapers are trying to decide what to do. They fear that if they don't publish and the Unabomber strikes again, they'll be blamed. But if they do publish, they will have turned their pages over not only to the Unabomber but also to any other terrorists who make similar credible threats in the future.

I have a suggestion for the Times. You own a book publishing house. Print the Unabomber's work as a book. That keeps your newspaper integrity intact. And it may smoke him out. This is what is likely to happen:

First, when he gets his manuscript back with editors' corrections and suggestions for revisions, he will have a strong urge to go to New York and confront the idiots who have ruined his prose. He will probably resist that urge, out of self-protection, to remain anonymous, but he may not. It is a strong urge.

The Unabomber is very clever at hiding, but if a manuscript goes back and forth from publishing house to clandestine mail drop several times, there is at least a chance that the FBI will get a lead to the Unabomber.

But let's say he resists the urge to confront his editor and also avoids FBI surveillance of the mails. The book is published. Unabomber hates the dust jacket. He hates the type style. He hates the page size. And there's no index! The urge becomes almost irresistible at that point (ask any author). But say Unabomber resists and remains in hiding.

A few months pass. He gets a royalty statement. If that doesn't bring him out of hiding, nothing will. He'll be on the first plane to New York to throttle his publisher. Unabomber will have learned why James T. Farrell, the novelist, said near the end of his long career, speaking for authors everywhere, that the first thing he did every morning was look at the obituary section of the paper in the hopes of seeing that another book publisher had died.

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