Tuesday, October 02, 2007


You know how Amazon.com sends you those you-might-be-interested messages, using your past buying habits to determine other things you might want to buy? A pretty clever notion, marketingwise, but as is so often the case, the best-laid schemes gang aft agley.

Our case in point: The following, which arrived today from my friendly bookseller:


William J Reynolds,

As someone who has purchased or rated books by Paul Dini, you might like to know that The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century will be released on October 16, 2007. You can pre-order yours at a savings of $10.20 by following the link below.

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
Alex Ross
List Price:$30.00
Price: $19.80
You Save: $10.20 (34%)

Release Date: October 16, 2007

Pre-order now!

Well, that's all well and good. Obviously, my friends at Amazon.com know that I have purchased books like JLA: Liberty and Justice, written by Paul Dini and illustrated by the always-excellent Alex Ross, or Dini and Ross's Batman: War on Crime with its truly breathtaking images (nothing against Dini, but it's Ross's stuff I'm buying these books for), and so they consider it logical that I might be interested in The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross.

And so I might. But not for the reason they think. This is a completely different Alex Ross.


There's Alex Ross the illustrator, who has worked with the writer Paul Dini and others. And there's Alex Ross the New Yorker music critic, who's written The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a volume which, I have on good authority, features no super-heroes.

Here, incidentally, is an illustration by the former:

Well, these things happen, obviously. Some years ago, when I was actively writing books, I felt some consternation over Books in Print's habit of lumping together authors with the same or similar names in its listings. So it was that I had several people express considerable surprise at "discovering" that I was the author not only of a handful of private-eye novels but also of such entries as Companion to Baptist Hymnal and Songs of Glory: Stories of 300 Great Hymns and Gospel Songs.

Those who know me know how unlikely it is that I produced those two titles...to say nothing of A Joyful Sound: Christian Hymnody, also credited to "me." For of course there was another William J. Reynolds floating around out there (and he may still be, would I trouble myself to investigate). Would it be difficult to tell us apart? The "other" is a Southern Baptist minister born in 1920; I am neither of those things. But I suppose in the long run it's easier that I (and, for all I know, he) keep explaining that there is another fellow of the same moniker than to have Books in Print keep us straight. Easier for Books in Print, I mean.

Those who know me might also know that I am a "junior," but never use that appellation. It's never seemed necessary. Sure, there's sometimes some confusion, but no more so than between me and Pastor Reynolds. Occasionally there will be some odd quirk--my local public library, when I moved back to town 20-odd years ago, insisted on appending "Jr." to my file, the librarian "helping" me seemingly flummoxed by the fact that my father and I have exactly the same name! (She must have been aware of the phenomenon, however, since she was the one who came up with the "Jr." solution.) I pointed out that my father and I have different dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, and other vital statistics...but no. She couldn't get her head around the notion that there was already another William J. Reynolds in the system and now here comes another one!

I wish I had had the idea to ask her what she would do if the "other" and I were not related--if the "other" had been, say, Pastor Reynolds of hymnody fame. Would one of us have had to, effectively, change his name in that case, too?

So I'm in the Siouxland Libraries system as "William J. Reynolds Jr.", which, ironically, causes problems for the Siouxland Libraries system, since it obviously was not built to handle a suffix. (The suffix the librarian made me adopt!) And so when the electronic voice calls to tell me I have something overdue or available on hold, it tells my answering machine that it has "a message for William J. J.R. Reynolds. William J. J. R. Reynolds has one items overdue," etc. (The electronic voice has trouble with subject-verb agreement too.)

Which always makes me chuckle. If only that librarian had listened to me 20 years ago!

Good think the Alex Rosses don't live in the same town.