... AUTHOR BIO
Q: Who is Not-Wand? Here is an answer of sorts —
“Let me get this straight, you’re writing as August Christie, and Christie is writing under the name Sir Agatha?”
“Why is your pseudonym using a pen name?”
“Once in a while Augie likes to remain anonymous.”
“No, that’s why you are using a pen name. Plus, pen names are an all-or-nothing proposition, kind of like condoms. Having your pseudonym use one occasionally is ineffective, unnecessary, and redundant. A single pseudonym is sufficient to protect your identity, Mr. Wand, but you’ll have to use it all the time.”
“Wand is not my real name.”
“A.I. Wand is my alias.”
“Why do you have an alias?”
“Because I no longer have a primary identity.”
“Are you saying you’ve experienced identity theft?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. In a broader sense, I do not technically exist.”
—From SITM “Chapter 02 - Contents”
Not-Wand has lived and died many times.
Of course, that sentence is hyperbolic.
This sentence is not — he was born for the second time in 1965 in New York, but he grew up in Florida and Georgia, spending long stretches alternating between the two. He's almost ready to make up his mind and is leaning hard towards Florida.
Not-Wand was born the first time in 1964 (more hyperbole), the year author Donald Barthelme — his literary godfather (even more) — published his first collection of short stories entitled “Come Back, Dr. Caligari.” The two never met formally during Mr. Barthelme's illustrious lifetime, although they momentarily passed one another on two separate occasions before finally meeting in earnest. These three meetings are summarized, not chronologically, as follows:
1) In September 2019 (a month after reading Don B's A “City of Churches” for the first time, included in a Best American Short Stories of the 20th Century anthology), Not-Wand dove headlong into the author's bibliography and discovered a precious Barthelme gem called “Game,” included in his anthology, Sixty Stories. Immediately, Not-Wand recalled having read “Game” in 1998, numerous times in fact, as part of a hardcover Scribner short story anthology. Don B's contribution resonated so profoundly with Not-Wand that he stopped reading the other stories and just reread “Game” over and over and over, until the letters fell off the paper. Being Not-Wand, he probably reread “Game” a hundred or two times (and recalled it clearly upon hearing Toad the Wet Sprocket's haunting “Silo Lullaby” in 1999). However, being Not-Wand also means his 1998-99 self turned its attention elsewhere (possibly to A.L.F. reruns, because who doesn't love former prime-time space puppets?) and, to his inexplicable, trajectory-diminishing detriment, completely forgot Don B existed.
2) In December 2019, a box of Not-Wand's college papers was discovered unexpectedly that contained a copy of Don B's story “To London and Rome,” proving that Not-Wand wasn't entirely illiterate in 1986 (only mostly illiterate.) No one not content to remain mostly illiterate would let Mr. Barthelme's genius slip through his fingers, not once but twice. When asked about this during a recent interview, Not-Wand offered a weak and inarticulate statement in his defense —
“I was once asked, 'If you like the way Coke tastes more than you like Diet Coke, why not just get a coke? Why drink Diet Coke all the time if you don't like it as much?' My answer — 'Because I don't like to get what I want,' — was too immediate to have been contrived. I continued, 'You might not always get what you want, but as for me, I don't even like to get what I need.' (It's not an excuse for overlooking the brilliance of Don B two times in two decades, merely an explanation.)”
3) Not-Wand and Don B were formally, finally introduced in August 2019, quite by accident and, sadly, 17 years after Mr. B's passing — after first drafts of two-thirds of the SITM stories were already completed. Although it's difficult to conceive that stories such as “Epiphany” or “Zygote” could have been written absent a powerful, working knowledge of Mr. Barthelme's sublime bibliography, it's true. It is unclear how much influence reading “To London and Rome” in the 1980s, reading “Game” in the 1990s, then reading “A City of Churches” in the late 2010s may have influenced Not-Wand, but it's possible that his brainstem (Not-Wand's, not Don B's) — where old, forgotten memories are stored — works better than the rest of his brain.
The truth isn't always easy to swallow, but that doesn't make the truth any less true.
Three SITM stories with which Not-Wand is most pleased — “Acorns,” “Mulligan,” and “T.E.A.M.” — were written after an intensive five-week immersion in Don B's delicious brain, during which Forty Stories was read three times, Sixty Stories and The Teachings of Don B were both read twice, and his brilliant Sadness was read once. Sadness was too sad for repeated readings, but the single reading gave Wand a handle on his life he'd always wished he'd had. If Only Not-Wand had read Sadness upon its publication when he was seven, he might have moved to New York City after graduating college instead of donning the lab coat. To the extent this third anecdote is true, then, Not-Wand was born most recently in 2019.
Not-Wand, whose 'talents' might approximate where Don B was in 7th or 8th grade, is currently at work on The Book of The's, his follow up to Something in the Middle, which will hopefully be published prehumously.