Gordon Gladberry was born in 1932 in Manilov, Illinois. He grew up there, and went to high school in the same town. No one noticed any special or extraordinary talent in him, and no one paid him any attention. He traveled, dropped out of college, and lived in South America. He wrote extensively, published limitedly, and died. His few printed pieces, sent from abroad to American periodicals, failed to catch the critical or the popular eye.
In 1986 his life’s work was published posthumously, and was noticed by no one outside the scholarly community. Though at times startlingly creative, the corpus seemed less the work of a writer than that of a radical new philosopher. Gladberry’s life’s work is not literature in the traditional sense, but the very genesis of his life.
The manuscripts were all written out longhand (he never learned to type) and were black-leather bound in twenty-seven 19×13 cm volumes. The format is that of a journal, but on the first page Gladberry explains otherwise:
I have just finished translating my grandfather’s journals [from Polish, the project took five years]. His was a romantic and extraordinary life, but he could have lived even more intensely, more wildly had he known what I know, read what I have read. I began to imagine him every night sitting at his desk to recount the day’s events, surely anticipating posterity’s delight. […] But what if he could relive what he had written? What if everything he wrote was not meant for posterity, but for himself to read over and live again, to remind him of who he once was?
With romantic times passed, I have no opportunity to live as he did. I, then, become like my grandfather in his later years, only I need a reminder, not of who I was, but of who I want to be. I want, not to relive my past, but to live my future. So I shall write my future. Every day, from this forward, I will write about the next day in this ‘future journal’. I will tell precisely what will happen tomorrow with elaborate and living flourishes, writing what I want to live. And subsequently I will live it!
This entry directly precedes a description of the following day. The days follow in succession, each building on the romantic idealism of the one before. Gordon Gladberry grows in his own mind with every entry, becoming a towering giant. By 1964 he appeared across Latin America in tabloids, he was the particular darling of the Peruvian pulp press. He had an attractive daring about him, as though he knew how every day would turn out, and, as his ‘future journals’ corroborate, he usually did.
He died without notice in the United States, and his fame elsewhere quickly vanished.
Upon his death, a friend published the ‘future journals’ in the United States for scholarly interest. They immediately caught the attention of a sociology professor at Wynnington College in south Pennsylvania. Within six months of the journal’s release, the professor, Arna Bronstein, had written a self-help book entitled, The Future Journaling of Gordon Gladberry. Bronstein won immediate and astounding popular success and made Gladberry a household name. The author, however, owed very little to the real Gordon Gladberry: she discarded much of his biography, and transformed his ‘future journaling’ technique into a simple treatise on checklists. But the public loved it, and the name Gordon Gladberry was everywhere.
I know all this because I am Gordon Gladberry.
In 1967 my parents emigrated from Paraguay to the United States to give birth to me as a citizen of the United States. They wanted to give me a truly American name. The first they thought of was Gordon Gladberry. He was at the height of his fame in Paraguay, but no one in America had heard his name.
When I was nineteen a book called The Future Journaling of Gordon Gladberry appeared in the local bookstores. It sold like crazy. Articles were written about it. The book was as safe a topic of conversation as the weather. Both topics I typically avoided, claiming imdifference to the first and ignorance of the second. But every day, everywhere, I saw my own name taunting me from the book’s cover, until I finally broke down and bought a copy.
It was trash. The author merely inflated checklists into an American craze. People now lived their lives according to the book. A company, whose creator quickly changed his name to mine, patented the term ‘future journal’ and now sells journals in the exact size and shape of Gordon Gladberry’s.
I hated my name. Throughout my college years, asinine jokes and obvious questions followed every introduction to every new person I met. I thought I could wait it out, that maybe after a year or two, this too would die away, and that my name would be a normal, American name once again. It never died away. The Americans held tenaciously to this idiotic fad, and let it spread and fester until no one read the book, but bought it just to have it.
I had to get away, to go somewhere where no one had heard of Gordon Gladberry, and start a life based on me, not my name. I couldn’t go south, so I looked east to the masking oblivion of Bohemia. Prague has been my home ever since. After some years of living more or less anonymously, I tracked down Gordon Gladberry’s original ‘future journals’ and the corresponding news clippings. I was inspired by his idea, by his undeniable affirmation of free will, to start my own ‘future journal’. Last night––among other, more detailed, remarks––I wrote:
Tomorrow I will write a fictional account of how I was named Gordon Gladberry.