Let’s face it, Jim, it seems unlikely that either of us will ever make the cover of ‘Esquire’, or even ‘Forbes’. In fact I happened to be reaching for my tube of ‘Toup-O-Fix’ just at the moment I glimpsed your dignified strictures, and of course my spontaneous reaction to them was the same as Shakespeare’s doubtless would have been: "Methinks he doth protest too much". For after all, who among us can easily stifle his natural defensiveness on seeing himself so succinctly, if unflatteringly, portrayed, even if the coincidence is purely accidental (or should that be ‘occidental’?).
No Jim, I feel that ultimately we are all better off owning up to our physical shortcomings. In addition to being obliged to acknowledge the element of spirited gallantry which - at least partially - so obviously underlies your defence of Mr Ito’s project, I suspect from the overall vehemence of your response I already have a good idea of your outward appearance. In my case - and quite apart from my dowager’s hump - I must confess to having one leg shorter than the other, although whether it’s my right leg or my left one depends mainly on which way I happen to be squinting the most on any given day.
…Excuse me just a moment while I reposition these uncomfortably ill-fitting dentures… which, however, are a lot more effective than the terrible buck teeth I used to have in resisting the effects of my compulsive thumb-sucking - a habit I acquired years ago in my hapless attempts to blot out the reflection of my face whenever I happened to catch sight of myself in a mirror, or even a shop window. (Alas, my forays into ‘oriental something’ have proved even more hopeless.)
As you may infer from the foregoing, your insinuations about my appearance were strikingly perceptive, but it was your observations on my personality defects that truly struck home, and made me realise how inferior my own knowledge of my character is compared with the depths of your insightfulness. Perhaps, in the luminous words of another contributor to these correspondence pages, "after this unfortunate misunderstanding is cleared up, it will not stand in the way of what may yet become a valuable and enriching friendship".
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)