Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Too Many Freds

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Too Many Freds

Article excerpt

It's clear the world is overpopulated. You know this when you discover how many of those many people have your name. This happens to John Smiths and Jane Joneses. But not to Frederic Hunters.

Only it's happening.

At a luncheon the other day, an acquaintance who had written a musical sat next to me. During a lull she chirped: "Oh, I saw the other Fred Hunter yesterday." This "other Fred Hunter" is a landscape designer, also interested in the arts. We have met on the phone, sorting out mismatched messages from our answering machines. "He is the most wonderful singer and actor," twittered my acquaintance. "He's made a CD of my show, in fact. I'll give you one." "I'll bet it has my name on it," I said. "Sure does," quoth she. "You can put it on your coffee table, and everyone will be impressed!" All Fred Hunters are pleased when another Fred Hunter turns out to be talented and productive. Trouble is, there are just too many of them. The real shock came in these very columns. I had been publishing the occasional essay here for years. Then, curiously, I read one by me that was not by me. In a style that was not my style. Discussing a subject I knew nothing about. Sometime later, this newspaper sent me a 1099 form: I owed tax on writing I had never written. Still later, the college I attended decades ago sent a bookstore bill made out to me. But I had not been there for years. Turned out it was this same fellow, the one who'd published an essay with my name on it but not written by me, a London Fred Hunter. You wouldn't think there were two Frederic Hunters, both writer-types, both bookish, inhabiting the same tiny subculture. But there are. You wouldn't even think there were many Freds at all. For Fred is a name of the past. Unlike Jasons and Jeremys and Jedediahs, very few Freds are under age 30. No Fred has won the girl in a Hollywood movie in more than a generation. Fred is what TV sitcoms call the pooch. Or the parakeet. You probably don't remember, but time was when every reprehensible act described in - it was either Ann Landers or Dear Abby - was done by "I'll call him Fred." I wrote the columnist, whimpering that, on behalf of the Freds of this world, could she please let up? …

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