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The Weekly Blague

117 Across

How does a writer know if his books are being read--I mean really read, and that his words are penetrating the reader's consciousness and taking up permanent residence there? Sales alone don't tell the whole story. How many books--Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections comes to mind--are bought in mass quantities only to end up as an intellectual art object on a coffee table or carried around as the latest fashion accessory? (E-readers, of course, are putting an end to this practice.)

Letters from readers and blog posts on sites like Tumblr are true indications, I think. But how many times have you read a book that you loved (or hated), and meant to tell the author about it, but just never got around to it?

Another way to tell if a book is really being read is when the book’s title or the author’s name turns up as a clue on a game show or in a crossword puzzle, indicating that the work has, indeed, become part of the popular culture. It’s happened three times that I’m aware of with my John Lennon bio Nowhere Man. The first was in December 2003, when it was a Jeopardy answer—“Rock ’n’ Roll Bookstore” for $400, Alex!” (“Nowhere Man is Robert Rosen’s take on “the final days of” this Beatle,” was the clue.) The second was two years ago, when “Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon author Robert” was 118 across in the L.A. Times syndicated crossword, which was picked up by dozens of newspapers. (The link is to the Palm Beach Post.)

It happened again in the crossword puzzle in the May issue of Buffalo Spree, a venerable regional magazine from Western New York State—same clue as the L.A. Times, but this time it was 117 across, a number more in keeping with the book’s numerology themes.

So yes, I take these incidents as irrefutable and encouraging evidence that Nowhere Man has fully penetrated the popular culture. And I can only hope that Beaver Street isn’t far behind. (And if you don’t know the answer to 117 across, you can click here.)

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118 Across

Would you believe I'm 118 across in the LA Times crossword today? Click on "Featured Puzzle" for November 28.
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