The interment of Moses

Well, it’s summer, and the living is easy. This is the time when people read fluff books and do their best to turn their primary attentions to leisure. So I decided to assist in your summer entertainment.

For about the last eight or nine years my books have carried what I call “The Moses Picture.” It’s a photo of me that I took in my living room using a 35mm camera with a shutter delay. One of my publishers was demanding a new publicity photo, and I seem to do very poorly when confronted with someone telling me to say “cheese” or to look serious and authorial. So I took about a million shots and, like the blind pig in search of the acorn, came up with one photo that not only looked great, it didn’t even look like me. I considered it a wonderful coup.

However, in the back of my mind was the memory of an elderly woman at a reading I had given several years earlier who had been looking at the publicity photo on the original harcover of Letters to My Son. Being a bit deaf, she had no sense of the volume of her speech. Right before I began my reading she bellowed to her neighbor, “That must be an old photo on the book. He looks a lot older in person.”

Well, that photo was not old — it had been taken about 6 months earlier — and it looked much like I looked, which, one would assume, is what a photo should do.

Anyway, I never forgot her loud comment. My discomfort only increased when I submitted The Moses Photo. It was like the best I can look on the best day of my life. Maybe better. My publisher thought it was great.

I tried to rectify this when we published Road Angels where I used a photo taken by a local photographer. I liked it just fine and thought I had come clean. But since nobody bought Road Angels, my rectification came to naught.

Which brings us to now.

The folks at both HarperSanFrancisco who are publishing Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce, and those at New World Library who are reissuing Simple Truths, needed a publicity photo. So I decided the time had come. I told my son, Nik (Nick’s new spelling of his name), to grab the digital and set things right. He managed to take one shot before the battery went dead and, voila, it was just fine. It looked like I look, revealed something of my character, and freed me for all times from the burden of being a Moses manque.

I am herewith posting it on the “about” page of the website.

Those of you who liked Moses may be disappointed. Those of you who have gently requested something more authentic should be mollified. And I, for my part, can now go speak to elderhostel groups without having hard-of-hearing women boom out, “That must be an old photo,” or, “Who is this guy? We were expecting Moses.”

Now they’ll just say, “He looks like he’s as old as we are.”

It will be a fine moment of truth, and I will embrace it fondly.

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