My favorite American author? Well, my taste range includes the usual suspects: Cormack McCarthy, H. L. Mencken, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Will Rogers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, May Sarton, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Anne Porter. I could go on.
But the writer I return to year after year is L. M. Boyd, who died this year at 77 after a 41-year career as a syndicated trivia writer for hundreds of newspapers across the United States. A trivia writer? He wrote a daily column! Not easy.
The man could really warp a sentence:
"There are 350 varieties of shark, not counting loan and pool."
"Pity the Incas of Peru didn't have movies. They had popcorn."
"Remarkable what governments do to prop up their nations' ailing industries. Take England during the reign of Charles II. The woolen trade was hurting. Badly. So a law was passed that required all coffins to be lined with flannel."
"Many Europeans claim to be direct descendants of Charlemagne. Maybe because he had four successive wives and six concubines. Hardly noteworthy numbers for potentates. Some bartenders in Vegas have lengthier lists, I believe."
"Greek rainmakers dipped oak branches in water when praying for rain, and sometimes it rained thereafter. The Romans threw clay images into the Tiber River, and that, too, was oftentimes followed by rain. Teutonic rainmakers poured water over nude girls. That never did produce rain, but they clung to the ritual."
"Clearly, that current penchant for first names only is more than a fad. You know what Michelangelo called himself? Michelangelo."
When L. M. Boyd first tried to retire, his loyal readers put up such a howl that he re-emerged after only seven months. I tried to sign on as an intern just to learn from him. Boyd said many writers tried to step up and replace his daily output, but they ran out of gas within a few months. Every one.
I miss him still. He's my keyboard hero.