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Sunday, January 1, 2017

An 'inspired' correspondence

I never thought I'd be a writer. I never thought I'd be able to read a book, let alone write one. So if books like this (mine) inspire kids to write, or even read a whole book, I think it's good. –Don Novello
An Ohioan and “New Year’s Baby” (from 1943), Novello's path to his book series started writing in advertising in the 1960s.  Then in the early 1970s he came up with the clever idea of “corresponding” with famous people under the pen name of Lazlo Toth, the deranged man who vandalized Michelangelo’s Pietà in Rome. 

Written to suggest a serious but misinformed and obtuse correspondent, Novello’s letters were designed as a humorous way to tweak the noses of politicians and corporations, but many of them received serious responses.  Encouraged, Novello sometimes continued the charade correspondence at length, with humorous results that would lead to another career – as a stand-up comic, particularly in the adopted persona of Father Guido Sarducci.  

As a comedian and as Father Sarducci, he appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Show; Saturday Night Live; and many other television specials and series, earning both accolades and awards for his cleverly written comedic scripts.   And as a writer, he eventually published a series of his “Lazlo” letters and their responses – The Lazlo Letters; Citizen Lazlo!; and From Bush to Bush: The Lazlo Toth Letters.   His “Lazlo” books inspired a number of other writers and comedians to try a similar approach with their own materials. 
“I'm kind of surprised that so many of those                       
other books were almost exactly like mine,” Novello said.  “They even follow the form. There were some books that even copied the stamp. It shows so little imagination.”

Happy New Year everyone!  May your 2017 be filled with imagination and many “Writer’s Moments.”

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