2162: Literary Opinions

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Literary Opinions
If I really focus, I can distinguish between John Steinbeck and John Updike, or between Gore Vidal and Vidal Sassoon, but not both at once.
Title text: If I really focus, I can distinguish between John Steinbeck and John Updike, or between Gore Vidal and Vidal Sassoon, but not both at once.


Megan is telling Cueball about some of her literary opinions: She believes that William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, and David Foster Wallace are different names for the same person. Many authors write under pen names for some of their works, or even several different pen names. Sometimes people come to believe that different people are actually a same person, which is known as the Fregoli delusion; the person is usually believed to change appearance.

She then says that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (by Thompson) and Fight Club (by Palahniuk) are the same book with different covers, probably because the title and promotional images for both hint at fighting taking place in a big city (i.e., she is literally judging the books by their covers), when in reality the books are vastly different. Books sometimes have different covers and titles in different regions. That said, Fight Club does contain a plot twist where two "different" things turn out to be the same thing (see 109: Spoiler Alert for more information).

Cueball's attempt at a reality check (proposing to actually open the books she is talking about) is met with disinterest. It becomes clear that Megan just wants to share her weird beliefs and does not care if they can be proven false - a theme that previously appeared in 1717: Pyramid Honey.

As a last resort, Cueball humorously proposes she should start a book club to discuss the books she has not read. This may be to congregate all people who criticize books without reading them, or in hopes that it will be attended by people who have read the book and can prove to Megan her opinions are baseless.

Megan finishes telling him her opinion anyway, which is that E.B. White and T.H. White are the same person. This is apparently an opinion that Cueball can agree with, as he tells her that he believes it. This is likely a joke that the two names are hard to distinguish due to the having the same last name with only initials instead of a first name. In reality, the books they authored are very different, with E.B. White writing children's books (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, etc.) and T.H. White writing adult books about King Arthur (The Sword in the Stone and its sequels), although his works were adapted into a Disney movie so they could, to some degree, be considered children's books.

The title text continues with this, with Megan saying that she can distinguish between John Steinbeck and John Updike, or between Gore Vidal and Vidal Sassoon, but she can't do so simultaneously. Again this is likely due to the similarities in their names. However, John Steinbeck and John Updike are also easy to confuse because they are both giants of 20th century American literature, whereas Gore Vidal has almost nothing in common with Vidal Sassoon (see chart below).

Additionally, the mention of simultaneity could be a nod to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that there is a trade-off in precision when simultaneously measuring position and momentum. It could also be a nod to how the brain cannot simultaneously interpret two different things at once, similar to looking at the Rabbit-duck illusion; at any moment, one can only see a duck or a rabbit in the image, but not both at exactly the same time.

Explanation of people mentioned[edit]

Name Description
William S. Burroughs (1914–1997), American writer and visual artist. Wrote many semi-autobiographical works, best known for Naked Lunch and Junkie.
Hunter S. Thompson (1937–2005), American journalist and author. Founder of the Gonzo journalism movement. Best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Chuck Palahniuk Born 1962, American novelist and freelance journalist from Pasco, Washington. Best known for his novel Fight Club.
David Foster Wallace (1962–2008), American writer and university professor for English and creative writing. Best known for his novel Infinite Jest.
E.B. White (1899–1985), American writer. Co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style. Also known for his children's books, including Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan.
T.H. White (1906–1964), English author. Known for his Arthurian novel series, The Once and Future King.
John Steinbeck (1902–1968), American novelist. Known for his novels set in Central California, including Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.
John Updike (1932–2009), American novelist, poet, short-story writer, art critic, and literary critic. Known for his prolific career and for his "Rabbit" series, chronicling the life of Rabbit Angstrom.
Gore Vidal (1925–2012), American writer and public intellectual. A political commentator and essayist, as well as a novelist.
Vidal Sassoon (1928–2012), British-American hairstylist, businessman, and fashion icon. Founded a worldwide chain of hairstyling salons as well as a line of hair treatment products. A philanthropist later in life.


[Megan is walking with a finger raised toward Cueball, who is seated in a chair with a book.]
Megan: Literary opinion:
Megan: I firmly believe that William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, and David Foster Wallace are different names for the same person.
Cueball: ...I see.
[Megan puts down her hand.]
Megan: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fight Club? Same book with different covers, I bet.
Cueball: I have both. Want to open them and check?
Megan: I do not.
[Cueball turns back to his book.]
Megan: Moving on: my next opinion--
Cueball: You should start a book club for discussing the books you refuse to read.
Megan: --is that E.B. White and T.H. White are the same person.
Cueball: Ok, that I believe.


  • The much earlier comic 923: Strunk and White from 2011 also mentions E.B. White and The Elements of Style writing style guide.
  • Also the earlier comic 1087: Cirith Ungol references Charlotte's Web by E.B. White in the title text.
  • The title text of the earlier comic 1277: Ayn Random plays with several people with similar names.

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let's see WS Burroughs = Tarzan, E.R. Burroughs = Naked Lunch. CS Lewis Carol Bruce Stirlling / SM Stirling

Is it just me, or was this comic released earlier than usual? Released just after midnight, EDT. Herobrine (talk) 08:30, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

It's just you. 10:33, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
Yes, it's unusally early. It happened before, but most of the time the new comics arrived in the late afternoon (central european time). This one was already up when I turned on my computer ~8am. --Lupo (talk) 11:54, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
As a night-owl in Randall's own time zone, who used to often catch up on Tuesday and Thursday nights (i.e. Before Wednesday and Friday comics, respectively), I can tell you that yes, the comic is released at midnight EST/EDT sometimes. Not that rarely, but not that commonly either. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:50, 15 June 2019 (UTC)

Is there any value in adding info about the authors mentioned? Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 13:17, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

I wanted to add "Elements of Style" to show T.H., er, E.B. (whichever ;-) was more than just a "children's book author". Probably not worth it.Afbach (talk)

I don't think this relates to the "Fregoli Delusion"(sp) - they think the same person is using more than one name. Afbach (talk)

Yeah, this feels more like pseudonyms than Frengoli to me. 18:42, 12 June 2019 (UTC)
IDK, is it different, really? Even if you accept a writing pseudonym as being different than actually using different names, this could be seen as their writer side is using multiple names. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:50, 15 June 2019 (UTC)

Shouldn't we discuss authors with multiple pseudonyms? Like JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith, or Nora Roberts and JD Robb, etc... 16:44, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

Glad I'm not the only one who confuses former US vice president Gore Vidal with Vidal Sassoon the war poet. ColinHogben (talk) 16:49, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

That's where I heard that name before! Afbach (talk)

Why would Megan pick those 4 authors to be the same person? What do they or their works have in common? It would be nice to cover that. (Not knowing anything about any of them, any theory I might advance would be about as valid as one of Megan's.) Bit of a long-shot, but I wonder if the link has anything to do with Randall's book tour competition. (He invites people to Write the best story using nothing but book covers.)[1] Any good story/sentence made up with works by those 4 authors? 22:13, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

Did a search on all those author names together. Seems Wallace, Thompson, and Burroughs wrote books that have been tagged as dealing with drugs. (Hardly a unique characteristic, but might suggest some common thead.)
Literature map - searching for Hunter S Thompson, lists the other 3 in fairly close proximity. (i.e., people who indicated reading one of these are likely to have read works by others of these authors. For whatever reason.)
Anybody writing here actually read these authors? 18:01, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

These authors have all been identified as "favorite author for young, mostly white males who wants to be cool and also exude toxic masculinity and won't stop talking about them to be seen as smart/edgy with their books about graphic content and drug abuse". While they are in fact popular with those readers and that kinda sucks, they don't deserve to be criticized without reading them (and, in my opinion, see that those readers skip completly the point on generational malaise these authors make). Cueball dubitative reaction and proposition to see what are the differences inside the books, plus the phrase about "a book club for the books you refuse to read", seems to be a rejection of the fact that some people are amalgaming this toxic readership with the books/authors themselves, and in reaction refuse to read them and see them as having the same content or ideology (they don't).

How about the theory that Mary Pearson, Andre Norton, Andrew North, Allen Weston, and M. D. Herter are the same person. ;-) 22:31, 12 June 2019 (UTC)

Should trivia link it to 923: Strunk and White which also mentions E.B. white.? --Lupo (talk) 08:32, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

Done! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 11:54, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
Thanks :) I had to note this down somewhere to not forget it, when the though struck me, but didn't have time for a proper edit... --Lupo (talk) 12:17, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
I got your back, Jack...er, Lupo! ;-) Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 12:42, 13 June 2019 (UTC)
I also back-linked from that comic to this one in a Trivia entry as well. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 12:43, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

I think this has to be viewed from one step back, i.e., it is not necessarily about books or writers, but rather a take on people who form and voice opinions without proper knowledge of the facts, even if the facts are very easily researchable. This happens A LOT in forum postings, e.g., when there is an article about some scientific dicovery on a popular news site, and then people start discussing (and fighting) about that discovery in the forums for this article. These discussions are more often than not based purely on speculation, without anyone bothering to check the original publication on which the article was based, or even without any specialist knowledge about the subject matter at hand. -- 09:54, 13 June 2019 (UTC)

E.B. and T.H. are distinguishable as one wrote a children's book ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang") and the other wrote James Bond novels. Oh wait, that was Ian Fleming. James Bond was the author of "Birds of the West Indies." I think the explanation of various audiences and subject matter does not disambiguate authors. See "Ambrose, Gardner and Doyle" by Raymond Smullyan. [Comet] 06:00, 15 June 2019 (UTC)

Similar ideas to comics 1970 and the title text on 1277. Should definitely be mentioned in the explanation. Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 04:06, 16 June 2019 (UTC)

How about AA Milne and EA Milne. CR, Virginia