An open letter to Mr. Neal Gabler:
Over the past few weeks I have been reading your biography of Walt Disney.
Having read some of your other work, including “An Empire of Your Own,” I expected that this book would be just as good, and I am happy to say that it is. It offers a lot of information that I hadn’t known, even though I’ve read a lot about Mr. Disney and the history of animation over the years.
But I do have one major problem with the book, and it has nothing to do with your scholarship or writing ability.
It’s that picture on the cover.
Yes, I know, if you’re going to publish a biography of someone, it’s practically de rigueur that you run a picture of the person on the cover as opposed to, say, a ham sandwich. (And, come to think of it, wouldn’t Dee Rigueur be a great name for a dominatrix?)
But this particular picture….
I don’t mean that it’s out of focus or anything. God knows I’m no expert on photography, but it basically looks fine to me.
But it’s those eyes that bother me.
I don’t like the way he’s looking at me, and, what’s worse, his eyes almost seem to, well, follow me a little.
Which is kind of embarrassing, given that the book is in my bedroom, where I get dressed, and it often seems as if Walt is trying to say, “You’re not going out in that?”
I realize it could be worse. I mean, I don’t read the book in the bathroom. It’s way too fancy a book for that, and I don’t read in the bathroom anymore anyway, so I no longer have to deal with the TV Guide in the Toilet Room Syndrome.
Oh, you don’t know what I mean? Surely you remember when TV Guide was a much smaller magazine – easier to take to the john – and featured more interesting articles, along with that yellow TV Teletype page at the end with the latest news. Not to mention Cleveland Amory’s reviews. (I learned a lot about writing from that guy.)
Anyway, years ago I would take the more compact TV Guide into the bathroom with me. Then, inevitably, it would be time for me to, um, prepare for my exit, and I’d have to put it down, only to find that the person on the cover was smiling up at me. This could be at best embarrassing (I had a big crush on Liz Montgomery, and it was unsettling to have her see me that way, although her smile was sweetly tolerant) and at worst off-putting (Bob Crane, with that supercilious smirk of his, never suspecting that one day Paul Schrader and Greg Kinnear would make quick work of him).
Now I suppose, Mr. Gabler, that you could argue that if I don’t want Walt to give me the evil eye I should just simply turn the book over.
I suppose I could do that. I suppose I could just keep remembering to turn the book over.
But I have so many things to remember these days.
And it is a heavy book.
Then again, I could just take the front cover off and stow it somewhere.
But I am a “Twilight Zone” fan, and I know how these things work.
Eventually, maybe not today or tomorrow or the next day, the cover would mysteriously find its way back to the book.
And I’d only have to deal with the problem all over again.
Not to mention that low, dull, quick sound that keeps coming from underneath the floorboards … and it's getting louder ….