The FedEx package had been accidentally sent Belgium. But it's here now. The FedEx people were very embarrassed and put a special rush job on it. (I thought they were ALL supposed to be rush jobs.)
I opened the package with shaking hands, breathlessly eager to see the title of the FINAL LaSalle manuscript. I got a little surprise. In addition to the final manuscript, there was also a copy of LaSalle's one and only attempt at a "literary" novel, his 1951 effort The Reluctant Enthusiast.
I'd heard of this novel, but never thought I'd be holding a first edition in my hands. It was probably the only thing that could have distracted me from the new manuscript, and I must admit that I began reading it that very minute, sitting in my easy chair with the shreds of the FedEx package still in my lap.
It's a love-triangle story, something about a piano and a tree surgeon and a teenage girl keeping some sort of long-winded diary. At times, LaSalle's efforts almost seem like a parody of a literary novel, but his raw earnestness is clear and I'm almost glad my friend is not alive to ask my opinion of his attempt at literature.
It's sad really because the rich themes in almost any of his pulp novels make better literature than his one conscious attempt to accomplish the same thing. His 1960 novel I Was a Teenage Android offers one of the most stunning comments on human nature and free will ever written in English.
LaSalle often made fun of my academic background, but I think secretly he wanted to win my respect which might be why he willed The Reluctant Enthusiast to me in addition to his final manuscript. How I wished I'd let him know. You always had my respect, Mr. LaSalle. Always.