Growing Up with Trevanian: What does your daddy do?
We lived all over the place when we were kids, and sometimes people were curious about what our father did for a living. He seemed vaguely glamorous, I think, and he often had no visible job, so people wondered. I remember that once at a party a nosy old lady tried pumping my little sister. “What kind of work does your daddy do, honey?” she asked in a phony sweet voice. My sister was the youngest of us three, but she was also the toughest. We all glared at the old bat, and my sister said in a hard voice, “Our father is self-employed.”
Sometimes he admitted he was a writer, but he didn’t say what he wrote, and when people asked us children, we would say stonily, “He writes textbooks,” and their faces would fall. It was great fun for us, the fact that his pen name was a secret. We understood that he didn’t want to waste time with interviews, or have people ask him questions like the one I overheard at another party, many years later. He had told an inquisitive woman that he was a playwright, and she frowned intensely and stroked her wine glass and asked, “how do you do that? how do you write those plays?” I thought, uh-oh, and I moved in closer in order to listen without seeming to. “Well,” he said “first I write all the vowels. Then I go back and fill in all the consonants.” She didn’t laugh. She nodded wisely, blinking. He was in a good mood, so he took another stab at it, trying to let her in on the joke. He said, “Once I tried it the other way around — consonants first, then vowels — but it didn’t work for me.” But no. No go. She knotted her features into a kind of art face and murmured, “Fascinating.” Oh well. One can but try.