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Of Fiction and Fotta-fa-Zee

October 05, 1986

While I realize the relative unimportance of my nagging question in the light of such current worries as widespread violence, terrorism, corruption on Wall Street and elsewhere, and the resoundingly final collapse of the literary and intellectual reputation of Ayn Rand and its resurrection as tonic and juicy gossip, why, oh why does The Book Review persist in listing Dr. Seuss' "You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children" as a fiction bestseller when all others list it as nonfiction, even The Book Review in its coverage of the "General" national bestsellers?

Does this sell more copies? Has Dr. Seuss asked you to? Is this so the title can be mentioned twice? Has nobody noticed but me? Have I overreacted? Will The Book Review answer? Why do people watch soap opera when The Book Review is so much more interesting?

MEL ROSENBERG

Los Angeles

\o7 Gently reformulated, your question is: Why do the nation's other book reviews list as nonfiction a book that opens with a capsule description of Fotta-fa-Zee and proceeds to narrate its protagonist's visit to a clinic specializing in Spleen Readjustment, Muffler Repair, Bus Driver's Blight, Chimney Sweep's Stupor, and Prune Picker's Plight? We don't know; and, yes, we have asked. Home with the flu, with extra time to read the competition's book reviews, Book Editor Jack Miles wrote a note to Mitchell Levitas, editor of The New York Times Book Review, asking whether Optoglymics, Dermoglymics, and Nooronetics--all featured in "You're Only Old Once!"--were medical specialties known in New York that somehow had not yet made their way to California.

Levitas wrote back wishing Miles a speedy recovery, the speedier the better. Lacking any clarification from New York or elsewhere in the Republic, The Book Review has had no alternative but to list Dr. Seuss' latest book twice: once where we think it belongs, and again where the rest of the country does. If the author benefits from this duplication, how can we object? Whose classification is correct? Rather than resort to arbitration, we propose trial by ordeal, using Dr. Seuss' "Bellows and Candle" test as here pictured. Evidently, this test is recognizable "nonfiction" medical procedure in the East. Somehow, when we look at it . . . but then, you know, we're all a little flaky west of the Sierra Nevada.

DR

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