Back in March, I wrote a post that I titled (oh-so-cleverly, I thought) No Sissy reply. In that post, I reported that I had written Even Cowgirls Get the Blues author Tom Robbins a letter about Sissy Hankshaw’s thumbs and received no response. I also expressed very little faith that I would receive any response. So today I’m here to tell you that my faith in cult-status novelists has been restored. I should never have doubted.
I wrote something like:
Dear Mr. Robbins:
For my master of fine arts in creative nonfiction, I am writing a book of essays revolving around the human thumb. Bla bla bla blah … (to read full letter, see No Sissy reply)
I’m wondering what you were thinking when Sissy Hankshaw entered your consciousness. Which thumbs inspired you to create Sissy? . . .
His reply, dated May 1:
Hola Senorita Beman:
As near as I can remember, it went something like this. One night in the early seventies, I was sitting around with a couple of sculptors getting pleasantly stoned. At some point in the evening, we began riffing, as the stoned will do, on an imaginary monument to the Unknown Hitchhiker. By the next day, the sculptors had forgotten the fantasy, but I began thinking what a novel about the Unknown Hitchhiker might be like.
Thinking about that potential character, I began thinking about hitchhiking in general, and this eventually led me to focus on the human thumb. As the days and nights went by, I found a way to make my newfound interest in thumbs dovetail with other themes that interested me at the time. For example, the plight of the whooping cranes and that of adventurous young women. And as the writing took shape, a number of other interests leaked into the plot, as well.
My thumb research is just a vague memory now, but I do know that I read books on palmistry and interviewed at length a plastic surgeon whose specialty was hand repair.
Wishing you great good fortune … , I am . . . . .
Yours to the Marrow,