The Katz Meow*

Early this month, I re-blogged a fascinating report by Peter M. Heimlich (via the Sidebar) that asked whether prominent Yale professor and Huffington Post columnist David Katz reviewed his own book on Amazon. The question was left hanging in the air, awaiting a response from Amazon’s public relations team.

The response from Amazon never materialized. Then to my delight (having checked for updates a number of times), Heimlich yesterday provided an answer.

10/26/15 UPDATE: This didn’t occur to me until I spied this sentence in an October 3 re-reporting of my item by Dean Sterling Jones at his lively Shooting the Messenger blog:

Ethically, whether or not David Katz the Amazon user is revealed as David Katz the Huffington Post columnist, it’s hard to imagine how a doctor and university professor could sink any lower.

A click here led me to the reviews page for Amazon user David L. Katz.

In his review for another book, he settles the matter.

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Big hat tips to Dr. Jason Fung for tagging the HuffPo column, to Low-Carb Barb for catching the Amazon review, and to Dean Sterling Jones for joggin’ my noggin.

Although validation for writing is not something I actively seek out, hat tips from reporters like Peter Heimlich are always welcome. I tip my own hat in his direction. But it appears I’ve been shown up. Somehow in the course of my own research, I missed David Katz signing-off another book review in his trademark style, where he makes a point of listing his credentials (which are extensive).

Now that has been cleared up, it’s my turn to add a piece to the puzzle, namely the how and when of the Huffington Post’s discovery that Samhu Iyyam is a pseudonym of David Katz. This is apparently as easy as typingdavid katz samhu iyyam” (minus quotations) into Google, yielding this curious LinkedIn confession, conceived as an April Fools’ joke. 

On April Fools’ Day, it is customary to perpetrate some variety of practical joke. I suppose, then, I am leveraging the occasion but defying its convention- by ending, rather than initiating, a playful deception. I am the novelist, Samhu Iyyam. reVision, the first book in an epic trilogy, is my first work of fiction.

Why? Jessamyn West, as quoted in the book, says “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” I believe that to be true. Much that is most important to share with one another is also the hardest. Deep thought about who we are, what truly matters, how we might be- in particular, how we might be better. Notions of how perceptions alter the realities that drive us apart, and how they might instead construct common ground, and bound our common causes.

I wrote reVision, and I am writing the Lore of the Corners trilogy, because I have been compelled to do so. Because the story took over my mind, and the characters have come to populate my imagination as vividly as anyone I know in the “real” world. Because I have fallen into a world of other, and often better, possibilities- and feel no less than duty-bound to share it. Because the story flowed through me, seeking egress.

I am Samhu Iyyam, and proud of it.

Before continuing, I’d like to take a moment of silence to remember the many thousands of innocent words murdered in the name of one man’s tireless self-promotion…there, doesn’t that feel better?

A time stamp on Katz’ LinkedIn post confirms the date of publication as 1 April, 2014: April Fools’ Day. Unfortunately, there is nothing to confirm whether Katz contrived to reveal his pseudonym when he wrote his review in February, or if this was a cynical exercise in damage control having been outed by the Huffington Post earlier that day.

Somehow, Katz’ confession only raises further questions. If he did originally conceive his book review as an elaborate April Fools’ prank, why hasn’t he clarified this with Amazon? Why confuse things by writing on Amazon at all, where such a “playful deception” is unlikely to touch anybody beyond the reach of fussy Amazon users? Lastly, was somebody at the Huffington Post in on the joke? 

Presumably, the answers to all of these questions have nothing to do with the sale of books.

*Cat puns are admittedly a bit thin on the ground.

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