The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses

Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part IV – Dedication

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The DEDICATION is two lines, two sentences.  It’s a fairly straightforward thank you to recreational mathemusician Vi Hart, Pat’s mutually avowed best friend and composer of “Knackerman, Knackerman” for Worldbuilders 2013, during which he offered her the opportunity to take a look at the manuscript that would eventually be published as The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

And it contains a mysterious reference to a figure familiar to Madisonian Wisconsinites, but generally unknown to the outside world.  Pat’s weighed in on both and their contributions to the text.

For Vi, without whom there might be no story.1

And Tunnel Bob, without whom there would be no Auri.2

  1. The News: The Slow Regard of Silent Things (April 25, 2014)

Then I took a big risk and showed it to Vi Hart. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog where she put some of my lyrics to music, we are now Best Friends.

So I knew her, and respected her opinion, but since we haven’t known each other very long, I trusted her to tell me the truth.

She read it, and we talked about the story. She pointed out some things she thought were problematic. I agreed. She pointed out some things she liked, and I was flattered.

We were in a bar in San Fransisco at this point. The Casanova. We’d spent a lovely evening together, and I was drinking a little bit, which is unusual for me. And it might be because of that that I started to lament the fact that the story was kind of a hot mess. Good stories are supposed to contain certain elements, I explained, and my story didn’t have those things.

Vi said she liked it.

I told her I liked it too, but that didn’t change the fact that people expect certain things from a story. If people read this story looking for those things, they wouldn’t get them, they’d be dissatisfied. Disappointed.

And Vi said something I hope she’ll forgive me for paraphrasing here without asking her first. She said, “Fuck those people. Those people get all the other stories in the world. Everyone writes stories for them. This story is for people like me. We deserve stories too.”

That shut me up. Because she’s right. It might not be for everyone. But not every story has to be for everyone. Maybe this was just a story for people like me and Vi. People who are curious about Auri and the life she leads. People who are, perhaps, not entirely normal.

Vi said a few other things that gave me enough confidence to send the story to my agent. He liked it, and said we should show it to Betsy, my editor at DAW. Betsy liked it. Really liked it. The people in her office liked it.

That made me think that maybe it *was* a story for everyone. Or maybe there are more people like me and Vi in the world than either of us expected.


  1. Best-Selling Author Warns ‘You Might Not Want to Buy’ His Book (October 25, 2014)

“Auri started from stories my father would tell me about a guy that he knew called Tunnel Bob. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s just a little different from the rest of us, and he is constantly getting arrested for being in the steam tunnels underneath the university, you know, the access tunnels that every big city has. My dad used to run engineering for one of the hospitals down there, and so he had to learn how to deal with Tunnel Bob, like everyone in the city, because he gets into your tunnels. What do you do? And so my dad actually solved the problem by saying Tunnel Bob could volunteer there three hours a week, but the rest of the time he couldn’t be in there. And it worked like a charm. Suddenly they didn’t have to worry about him wandering around when he wasn’t allowed, because he would do anything to protect these three precious hours where he was officially sanctioned to be in their tunnels. … ‘So what do you do down there in the tunnels?’ my dad would ask, and he’d say, ‘Well, the first hour I walks around a bit, and the second hour I cleans up some, and the third hour, well, that’s just for me.’”

Several reports of Tunnel Bob exist online.  Here’s a quote from “Walking on UW-Madison campus? Look down — you might spot Tunnel Bob” from The Wisconsin State Journal (September 8, 2012)

Tunnel Bob — really Robert Gruenenwald — is one of those campus apparitions that new students occasionally hear about, but few see. His 6-foot 6-inch frame notwithstanding, Gruenenwald, 55, has always seemed comfortable below the geographical and social radar.

More of a surprise than a threat, he has been making unauthorized patrols of the labyrinth of heating and cooling steam tunnels beneath campus since the 1970s. The tunnels themselves have criss-crossed below surface since the late 1800s.



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