The authors of the little-known pamphlet Freakonomics noted that a person’s name can have a momentous effect on their socioeconomic and personal well being. As someone whose last name has often been rhymed with the act of regurgitation, I can attest to this unfortunate reality. Though perhaps both the psychological trauma and hilarity of the ritualistic substitute teacher roll call is overrated, the sins of the parent can certainly be borne by the child, at least in terms of getting beat up in middle school.
One’s moniker can also bestow counter-intuitive outcomes. A well-known example of this is the brothers, Winner and Loser Lane, who grew up to become a repeat convict and a detective, respectively. Though we are dabbling in the softest, coziest of sciences, the conjecture is that both Lanes were treated, and therefore shaped, differently by their environment. Baseball, for its part, reinforces this lazy postulation: Win Remmerswaal fulfilled his destiny a mere three times, Bob Walk relinquished an uninteresting 3.27 per nine, and figures like Prince Fielder, Homer Bush and Josh Outman have provided equally false advertising.
So, too, seems to be the case for John Smiley, who in his tender youth, and at the height of his powers and optimism, appears already bracing for the approaching jest.
Here, for the sake of comparison, is an artist’s rendition of what a John Smiley smile might actually look like:
One of these, of your choosing, has been your daguerreotype of the afternoon.
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