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Pseudonymous Bosch: The Name of This Person Is Secret

PHOTO BY KEVIN SCANLON

"WARNING: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE!"

So begins The Name of This Book Is Secret, the 2007 children's work by Pseudonymous Bosch. The heroes are two 11-year-olds: Cass, a pointy-eared, intrepid modern-day Harriet the Spy, and her partner Max-Ernest, the outcast smart kid who lives under the same roof in a divided house with both of his divorced parents. The sinister Dr L and Ms. Mauvais are the grown-up villains. The follow-ups, If You're Reading This It's Too Late and This Book Is Not Good for You, are part of Bosch's "Secret Series," based on the five senses, with a fourth, This Isn't What It Looks Like, due in September, and the fifth thereafter.

Like Lemony Snicket with a little Monty Python, Bosch's style plays against the literary fourth wall with sassy footnotes like, " . . . mixing some truth into a lie is always an effective technique." Chapter One is written entirely in code, and readers are asked to write their own version of Chapter 32.

According to Bosch's official bio, "Rumors of Boschian sightings are just as frequent and about as reliable as reports of alien abductions. If you ever meet anyone claiming to be Pseudonymous himself, he is almost certainly an impostor. The real Pseudonymous is said currently to be hiding in a cave in a remote jungle (although there are contrary reports that he is somewhere in Greenland)."

Turns out he lives in L.A., though he won't say which part. From a secret location, he explains how he became a writer. "I wrote the first book in the series when I was in elementary school. Not as a student, I'm afraid, but as a volunteer. I was part of a program called Writing Partners, wherein fourth- and fifth-grade students were partnered with adults outside their school for the purpose of exchanging writing through the mail for 'comment and critique.' My writing partner, [fourth-grader] May, sent me poems, stories and a terrific cartoon strip she'd drawn about a chocolate bar that was afraid of being eaten. I decided I would write her a novel — but I couldn't think of a title I liked, no matter how hard I tried. Well, maybe that's because the name of this book is secret, I thought. Then I asked myself what the book should be about. The answer was obvious ... a secret!  And the rest, as they say, is secret history. "

His characters are both misfits, which makes one wonder about Mr. Bosch's own social standing as a kid. "I wish I were more like Cass, who is noble and brave and all that, but I'm afraid I resemble Max-Ernest quite a bit more: We're both short, have difficulty relating to our peers, and have a desperate desire to be funny, coupled with a near-total inability to tell a good joke."

Bosch explains that if he were a kid, he wouldn't read his own books. "I'd like to think my tastes would run more toward James Joyce, Kafka, that sort of thing."

He also claims an aversion to "morals, themes and lessons. On my desktop, I keep the epigraph from Huckleberry Finn: 'NOTICE: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.' "

As a child, his favorite book was Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. "But I insist that the fact that my third book is all about chocolate is entirely coincidental," he adds. "Rumors that Willy Wonka is suing Pseudonymous Bosch are just that: rumors. He and I are good friends, and just the other day we had a laugh about the whole thing over a cup of hot cocoa. Awful sugary stuff, but I was too polite to mention it."

As far as keeping his identity a secret and avoiding any J.K. Rowling–esque celebrity, he's unflappable. "True, packs of rabid child fans can be scary, but Dr L and Ms. Mauvais are something else altogether.  I live in mortal fear of their finding me."

Lastly, can we expect a movie? "This is L.A.," he replies.  "Of course, you can. Will the movie ever appear? That's a question I can't yet answer."


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