letter has indeed not been pleasant to read because it draws attention
to implications that were not at all in my mind when I wrote the
am terribly sorry to have hurt anyone's feelings. I was horrified
by the way
this case was handled and that (to my knowledge) it is still unsolved.
intention was (although I now see how ineptly) to bring attention
answer your questions: the event was indeed fictionalized and:
1. I was not on the De Soto bridge that tragic night.
2. I have no other information regarding Dr. Wiley's death.
3. I am forwarding this mailing to the editor and will immediately
ask his advice what to do in this situation. I am open to either option
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 19:42:06 EST
Subject: Your "Exquisite Corpse" piece on Donald Wiley
Dear Danuta Borchardt,
recently come across your brief piece
http://www.corpse.org/mississippi_corpse/Danuta_Borchardt.html about the disappearance and death of Harvard molecular biologist
Wiley. Although your piece doesn't mention him by name, it does
unmistakably describe the general outline of the circumstances of
writing an investigative piece about this case for a journal of
political critique to which I have contributed in the past (see:
Your "Exquisite Corpse" posting is unclear about its level
I recognize that your intention seems to have been a Borges-style
of incompatible narrative outcomes. Yet you begin the piece with
first-person claim to have visited the de Soto Bridge on the night
disappearance. That didn't actually happen, did it? I can't tell.
you talk about the smell of putrefaction from "the body," but the body had vanished from the scene and was only recovered
35 days later, 300 miles away in Louisiana.
also ask the reader to imagine, in one of your scenarios, "That
the scientist was subject to depression, alcoholism, homosexuality,
addiction and an obsession with pornography, especially child pornography."
This is plagiarized from Wyne Madsen's article of April 8, 2002
on the Counterpunch website (to which I've also contributed a number
of articles in the past): http://www.counterpunch.org/madsenanthrax.html.
Madsen's article contains a number of highly dubious assertions,
but the one you use is sound:
"It is a classic intelligence agency ploy to spread disinformation
about 'suicide' victims after their murders. The favorite rumors
spread include those
about purported alcoholism, depression, homosexuality, auto-erotic
drug addiction, and an obsession with pornography, especially child
only element of this truism that might apply to the handling of
Dr. Wiley's case is the imputation of "alcoholism." Wiley
was not a drinker; he had
enjoyed what appears to have been a single glass of port several
before he left the Peabody Hotel that night. Nobody ever attributed
any of the other above-listed characteristics and habits to Dr.
Wiley at any time, and there
is no evidence for any of them in his life.
Wiley is survived by family members, students, and colleagues who
cherish his memory. Doesn't it seem a bit irresponsible (shitty,
even) of you to
write "he has flashbacks of masturbating in front of photos
of little boys
plastered on the walls of his bedroom," even as part of a fictional
hypothetical scenario? All writers make errors of judgment, but
wondering if you regard this story as such an error.
for your time. Once again, I'm asking:
Were you in fact on the de Soto Bridge that night?
2. Do you have any other information regarding Wiley's death?
3. Would you consider removing the posting from Exquisite Corpse
providing the standard disclaimer stating that "any resemblance
to persons living or dead is purely accidental"?
letter can't have been pleasant for you. Thanks for reading it.
look forward to hearing from you.
(translator, Sophocles and Plato)
we've got our lines tangled here, and I am sorry for the unpleasantness.
Our genre-bending policy does occasionally lead to such a farrago,
but we're not the latter-day Truman Capote (we wouldn't
mind being the earlier). Dr. Hecht graciously gives Dr. Borchardt
good arguments for her story, and suggests quite sensibly, adding
a disclaimer. We agree. It's done. We have hosted Danuta Borchardt's
writing on many occasions; she is a splendid fiction-writer, the
translator of Witold Gombrowicz, and an exquisite memoirist. We
hope to publish more of her work in the future, but we are also
taking the opportunity here of inviting Dr. Hecht to contribute.
We like his civilized firmness and his prose.