Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Peter principle

My friend Rich bought and read Trizophrenia (now, that's a friend) and brought up a good question:
The foreword by Peter Sagal is pretty funny. How does foreword writing go? Does the foreword writer get a portion of sales too? How does that work? Don't answer that question, but it has always perplexed me a bit. What's the point of spending say 10 hours writing something that perhaps no one will read and there is no "pay-back" except that they may be your Friend. Now, I've agonized for 5 hours or more in writing a eulogy, but that is sort of an epilogue not a foreword, eh?
 Nobody gets paid to write a foreword as far as I can tell, which is amazing. Especially when a serious somebody like Peter Sagal writes one for a relative nobody like me. This is more stress than you'd think. I was up nights -- no joke -- wondering if I'd missed a memo somewhere and that one of my heroes, now a friend, would eventually get sick of waiting for his check, rue the day he answered that first e-mail, shift my name from one sort of list to another (after becoming the kind of person who keeps such lists) and start deliberately spelling my first name with two Fs and pronouncing my last name like it rhymes with "shallot" instead of ".net" (these last two are benign and forgivable and common as gnats in May, but would have to be taken as some sort of message from a friend).

I did do a few things for Peter. We first met, via e-mail (the way just about anybody meets anymore), after I slipped him into a Frazz strip. It turns out he's a runner and a marathoner, so we hit it off well, and he was getting ready to race his first triathlon, which he did with, whatever they're worth, a bunch of my guidance and advice and my 5-year-old wetsuit. But the scale is still way off-balance.

But I think somebodies writing for nobodies is the real point of it all. Excellent writers and good people (Peter is both, in spades) are quite familiar with the concepts of giving back and paying forward, because most of them have benefited from it themselves. Since I can't possibly thank Peter enough even if I did pay him money, or lend him a nicer wetsuit, I will instead do my best to become a somebody myself and continue the tradition. It could happen. Trizophrenia has a really good foreword in the front and a really impressive name on the cover.

Rich already understood, I think, even if he didn't put it together before he asked his question. He's a world-class swim coach who has taken me on and is helping me immeasurably for, as far as I can tell, no tangible benefit to himself. Unless you can put a figure on the entertainment value of watching me attempt the butterfly stroke. But the MasterCard commercials have a word for that.
Note: Peter Sagal is running the New York Marathon this weekend. I am impressed and envious, and I cannot wait to see pictures. Because he's almost as non-photogenic when he's running as I am.


Reed said...

As one of Jef's editors, I can absolutely vouch for his non-photogenic running photos.

Anonymous said...

Does Rich have a website?