Knee “Jerk” Reaction


This is a story of persistence and pigheadedness. Two classic Bercaw traits. Fortunately, we also excel in laughing at ourselves. And Beau would have been doubled over by my latest misstep.

First, the cause:

While visiting with Larry of Broadstone Books in Kentucky last week, we agreed that Brain in a Jar needed one more “blurb” for the back cover. We have one from Bob Kerrey/Newt Gingrich, who also wrote the introduction. We also decided on Dr. Ken Heilman, Head of Neurology at the University of Florida, where Beau’s Fellowship is. All we needed was another writer to cap off the political/medical representation.

Lo, the obstacle:

Who to get? And how to get them? The only thing I love more than obstacles is hurdling over them. So I go into full-out “go big, or go home” mode. I reach out to Dr. Oliver Sacks. No answer. Okay. That’s cool. He’s busy with his own books and patients.

My friend Nancy in Phoenix suggests Maria Shriver, as does my agent Priya. Truth is that I’d thought of her as well. Her dad died of Alzheimer’s disease, too, and she is quite an advocate for the cause. She’s written extensively on the subject. What’s more, her dad started the Peace Corps and I was a volunteer. Okay, perfect. Maria is IT. She is the ONE. I’m going after her. So I write to her people.

One of them writes me back! And quickly too!

Hi Nancy — Thanks for reaching out. Can you send us a copy of your book? I would be open to taking a closer look to see if it’s a good fit for Maria Shriver.

Faster than the speed of light, I print the manuscript and FedEx it off to California. I’m dancing a jig around the post office. I’m singing “We are the champions,” by Queen. I’m blinded by joy, hope and optimism.

Later, in the middle of the night, I wake up choking on the foot in my mouth:

I’d totally forgotten about something in the book. Beau had a weird run-in with Robert Kennedy back at Clark Air Base. The incident caused my dad, as he told me several times, to become a Republican on the spot.

Um, did I just sent Maria Shriver a manuscript that includes a section about how my father didn’t like her family? Yes, I did. That was me. OMG, I’m such a Bercaw.

So now, I pray:

I pray that Maria sees the humor in it.  I pray that she likes the part where I’m in the Peace Corps and my dad comes to visit. I pray that the story of a strong father with Alzheimer’s disease resonates with her.

In the meantime:

Unbeknownst to me, while I was breaking the eggs in my Shriver/Kennedy basket, my husband was working behind the scenes on my behalf. Some years back, at my urging, he started reading books by the British author, William Boyd. Then recently, Allan had the occasion to meet Will and discuss a potential project. At the time, I was seething with jealously. WILL IS MINE, ALLAN!

But yesterday, Allan gave Will back to me.

Yup, Allan wrote Will asking if he’d blurb Brain in a Jar. Ladies and Gentlemen, the author of Any Human Heart said YES!

Will is also the author of my favorite book of all time Brazzaville Beach, which features my favorite quote of all time: The last thing you learn about yourself is your effect.

And don’t I know it?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s