Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Strange Case of Richard Kellys

Thanks to a deft intervention from my brother David this site can now be accessed via the URLs and Well and good, and my only vague unease arises in the thought of now trying to lay sovereign claim to my given name online, shy of its distinguishing middle initial. That 'T' had to be affected as long ago as the Dark Ages before online search engines, when I realised how common was my name, indeed with what regularity it would crop up in the particular fields of endeavour (film, literature) where I was trying roughly to make my way.
In fact, even before that (and new acquaintances of mine tend scarcely to believe this Amazing Fact), at university I made a great friend in a guy who was also called Richard Kelly, and with whom I actually shared digs for a year, causing the inevitable calamity for all post and telephone enquiries. Richard was and is - would you believe it? - taller and better-looking than me, so the confusion mercifully ended in the flesh, so to speak. But as a fan of Poe's William Wilson and Conrad's The Secret Sharer and Nabokov's Despair and just about every other literary fable of the doppelganger, this Stunning Coincidence was of great amusement to me just as it was to Tall Richard, 'mon semblable, mon frere'. But at that juncture we both of us agreed that the adoption of a middle initial in certain matters would be politic.
Yet this was not the end of the strange case, dear sir, oh no. When I published my first book Alan Clarke in 1998, I pondered for a while and then decided to take the plunge of being billed as plain old Richard Kelly: a way of making my first little self-affirmative scratch on the wall of books and bookmen. Utter folly, as it turned out, for when scouting around for reviews my heart jumped on several occasions to see my name listed in the table of contents - only to find that I shared my name with not one but two reputable scholars, one the acknowledged authority on the poems of John Berryman, the other a teacher at Manchester Grammar Scholar with several well-praised volumes to his name on the psephology of British general elections.
'Scoundrels! Imposters! Accursed villains!'
Well, no, of course - in fact, I wrote to the Manchester RK inviting him to share in the amusement of the Great RK coincidence, and he sent a very witty reply full of Dostoyevskian ironies, asking me that I please be sure to keep him apprised of what We were up to.
All of this had come to pass even before the young Californian film director of Donnie Darko and Southland Tales fame reared his head. I severely doubt he's ever been mistaken for me, but you would be surprised how often the opposite used to occur... More than once I received emails from hip art magazines asking for my contribution or views on some cultural issue of the day, and with a sigh I would realise that the request was intended for my youthful and famous namesake. Still, I would do my best to preserve the masquerade and send back obscene and highly inappropriate replies to these magazines, just to make things a bit tougher for the talented young master. (Not really.)
Still, one should dwell on the matter no further. Clearly all these Richard Kellys are a good bunch of people with which to be grouped, even if only via aforementioned search engines. Presumably there are honest people out there called Jeffrey Archer, say, or Jonathan Aitken, who have never held a position in any Tory cabinet but must occasionally feel themselves traduced by association nonetheless.

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