When I say a book is twisted, demented, and weird, I am recommending it highly (to people who enjoy weird, twisted, and demented). Little Billy's Letters – An Incorrigible Inner Child’s Correspondence with the Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Bewildered is all of those things and more. It’s been a long time since Billy was little, but his letters are relatively recent.
The letters are requests for advice from various well-known people, religions, and corporations. Billy explains why he is writing, that he is around eight-years-old (in third grade), and would like input from his victims. “Victims” because the people to whom he writes are unaware that the letters are actually from a grown man with too much time on his hands. What would you call that? Oh, yeah. A prankster.
I should be angry at author Bill Geerhart for Little Billy's Letters; I’ve stayed up far too late, unable to put it down. The letters from Billy look like they were written by a child. Geerhart not only has the penmanship down pat, but also the likely grammatical, spelling, and social errors that a child would make. He even used that paper on which we all learned to write (the book’s pages feel like that paper!).
The advisors he consulted range from Colin Powell to Dave Thomas to Charles Manson and friends. He wrote to Anheuser-Busch, asking if they offered a children’s version of beer; and Larry Flynt, inquiring about a kids’ Hustler. Larry Flynt told him to wait until he’s 18 to read Hustler, in the meantime he should stick to the Sears & Roebuck catalog (how many children are familiar with the “Roebuck” part?). An Anheuser-Busch representative turned state’s evidence, and forwarded his letters to his parents along with literature on keeping your kids and booze separate.
Some of the responses to his inquiries are long, thoughtful letters from someone who is interested in providing information or advice (Mr. Rogers, Susan Atkins-Whitehouse, Robert Shapiro in a particularly droll missive), others who didn’t bother to read what he wrote (Ian Zerling, George W. Bush, Rosie O’Donnell), and still others who are just out there (Charles Manson).
Billy asked a number of famous killers if he should drop out of school, and most of them encouraged him to stay in school and not make their mistakes. Some made it known in their responses that they were changed people (Manson wanted to know where his newspaper was).
Inquiring of many faiths, Billy wanted to know if their religions were cool, because his parents were allowing him to pick out his own religion. In response he received long letters, invitations to visit services, and brochures describing the organizations (including an atheist group). The best response was from the Mormons who sent two missionaries to his home. Some religious groups expressed that they were, indeed, “cool.”
For every respondent, Geerhart includes biographical or institutional information. Therein lies Little Billy's Letters funniest passages. Geerhart’s notes are not always the most flattering, nor are they all that respectful. However, they aren't fictional, either.
Little Billy wrote to a number of large corporations asking about employment opportunities and requirements, but advising that his first choice was 7-11. He asked Jack Kevorkian about the medical profession, and Dr. Kevorkian replied that some days he wishes he worked at 7-11.He wrote to supreme court justices asking what their favorite food at MacDonald’s was (some don’t eat there, others like it all). Most of the letters were written in the mid- to late-nineties. There are letters about money, morality, a possessed dog, food and a host of other topics.
Some of Little Billy's Letters are funny because we try to imagine the recipients’ reactions to the questions. Being a bit softhearted (or is that “soft in the head?”), I actually felt sorry for a few people who apparently put a lot of thought into their responses. Some letters were previously published in Radar magazine. While there is some poignancy here, most of Little Billy's Letters is very funny.
Bottom line: Would I buy Little Billy's Letters? Oh, yes, I would. I am particularly attracted to books that fall under the “humor” banner and this one is especially well put together.