Some while back, I confessed my inability to grasp America’s fascination with the undead. Today, I received a sign. Forty-eight years ago, desperate for funds to pay for my analysis and my wife’s analysis, I signed a contract with a commercial publisher to crank out a collection of philosophical works, all in the public domain [no permissions costs], to be called Ten Great Works of Philosophy. The advance was $2000, half on signing and half on submission of the completed manuscript. I did the job so fast that I submitted the manuscript before they could send me the signing check. I think it is my most forgettable book.
Time passed, the turbulent Sixties and Seventies gave way to the Reagan Era, then the Bush disaster, then the Clinton triangulation. Computers got faster and smaller, cellphones sprang up like weeds, social media transformed the world, I aged, moved, changed departments, retired, and still the royalty checks kept coming for Ten Great Works of Philosophy. The checks were never large, but over the decades, close to one hundred thousand copies of this utterly negligible work were sold. To whom? Lord knows. Bored travelers trapped in airports? College students in a Philosophy course taught by a professor so clueless as to consider this a suitable text? People reaching for the Kama Sutra and grabbing my book by mistake in their inflamed state?
Today yet another annual royalty check arrived, this one for $114.55, my take on sales of 640 copies [so it seems I make roughly 17.9 cents a copy]. This check puts me over the $9000 mark, which works out to $190 a year, so sales seem to be holding up. I shall enter this royalty payment in my Excel spreadsheet with the forty-seven other entries. I rather suspect this walking dead book will still be around, loitering in train stations and drug stores, long after I am dead.