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Stranger Than Fiction

Photographs by Sam Holden

By Blake de Pastino | Posted 12/22/2004

Morgan Rosenberg is the kind of man who speaks of himself in the third person, as if he were not real, and his life were a story so fantastic that only he could tell it. It doesn’t take much time in his company to get the sense that this is indeed the case—that Morgan Rosenberg does see himself as having an almost fictional quality, and that nearly every utterance he makes is, in fact, an effort to control the story.

When you first call him at the patent law office where he works in Howard County, for instance, he is quick to admonish you about how he cares to be addressed. “There’s another Rosenberg who works in my office,” he says, “so when you call, you can ask for Doctor Rosenberg.”

When you ask about his ongoing work in his previous career, as a scholar of physics at the University of Maryland College Park, he is precise to the point of overweening. “I’m theoretical, so I don’t need a laboratory,” he says. “I can still do my thing.”

And when he introduces himself to the readers of his two self-published books, which together amount to 750 pages of plays, screenplays, and novellas—all about himself—he announces himself uniformly: “Morgan D. Rosenberg Ph.D., is a patent attorney most of the time, a physicist some of the time, and a novelist when he gets the time.”

That’s his story, but for him it’s not quite enough. For the past three years, Rosenberg has been writing, and re-writing, his autobiography in various forms, with both a consistency and a repetitiveness that he acknowledges approach a kind of compulsion. This is not because his life has been particularly interesting (born and raised in the same suburb where he works, educated in the sciences, he enjoys working out at the gym and going clubbing) or even especially consequential (at 31, he has spent much of his life so far in school). Instead, he keeps retooling the story of his life, he says, because he feels it’s missing something. He calls it “glam.” And one typical example of “glam” appears on page 179 of his first book, Sex, Death and Travel, in which Morgan Rosenberg has driven down to Washington, D.C., solicited a prostitute, and taken her to a motel room:

 

I rip the telephone cord from the wall and wait outside the bathroom door. What’s she doing in there? Drugs, urinating, washing? Who cares! Stupid, filthy, no good, goddamn bitch whore slut woman cunt. I hate her so much. Jesus, I can’t wait to kill her. . . .

Finally, after an absolute eternity, she comes out of the bathroom. She looks up in surprise to see me standing at the door and I bring the phone down on her head. . . . I lean her against the wall and lift up her left arm. I stretch it out to the side, like half a crucifixion. With the nail gun, my favorite tool next to a good heavy hammer, I shoot three nails through her hand to secure it to the wall. I do the same with her other hand. It takes a moment for her hands to start bleeding. . . . Lovely, lovely little trickles of deep red start dripping down her pink palms. Oh, what a piece of work is man. So perfect in its desecration.

Over the next seven pages, Morgan Rosenberg goes on to cut off the prostitute’s eyelids with an X-acto knife, slices the flesh of her arms into two-inch long bands which he pulls on until the skin snaps, fills her mouth with small black snakes, and finally hacks off her breasts with a hunting knife, the tissue of which he bundles and inserts into her vagina. “I am so fucking smart,” Morgan Rosenberg writes. “I really and truly am.”

Rosenberg has been publishing stories of hung-up sex and ludicrous violence, featuring himself as the central character, since 2001. And except for petty changes in setting or sequence, they are all the same, following a narrative arc that Rosenberg summarizes as “Morgan goes out, Morgan takes drugs, Morgan sleeps with this girl, y’know, Morgan kills her.”

Sometimes, he worries that his professional life will collide with his life in amateur slasher fiction (“Just because I’m very controversial as a writer,” he explains. “In intellectual property law, I’m just a guy who does his job”). At other times, he is more cavalier (“I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years, and it never has. I’m assuming that everybody knows and they don’t care”). Meanwhile, Rosenberg claims to have cultivated a dedicated following through the internet. Though he says he has sold only 5,000 copies of his books, he has erected three web sites dedicated to his life and writing, featuring excerpts, a blog, pages of fan and hate mail, pictures of himself in various states of undress, and nude photos of women he claims to have slept with, or even “killed.”

But whatever people might think—or know—about Rosenberg is incidental in the end, he says. His constant cosmetizing of his life story with “glam” may be obsessive, he allows, but depicting himself as a demoniac who seduces, brutalizes, and eviscerates women is for him a kind of deliverance, an exercise in self-actualization that brings him ever closer with each new version to what he says is his ultimate goal: total emotional honesty, laid bare in a world that would rather he repress it.

“There’s no therapy that you could ever get me, no anti-psychotic drug that you could ever give me, that would be quite as effective as writing down my every single deepest, darkest thought and then showing the entire world,” he says, on a lunch break not far from his office. “It’s very liberating.”

That Morgan Rosenberg is living a double life—one that he lives and one that he writes—is not entirely the issue. Nor is it that he refuses to discuss where the truth of his stories ends and where the fiction begins.

The issue is that Morgan Rosenberg is not in control of his story; the moment he lost control was probably the moment he wrote them down. But for now, he enjoys the benefits of what he sees as his pathological honesty, in a world filled with phonies.

“We can’t say truthful things,” Rosenberg complains of the culture that created him. “There’s no such thing as a statement made innocently or with humor anymore. And my writing is a reaction to that. And honestly I like being controversial. Because I know that I will never be famous for my writing. But the second-best thing is infamous, and that I already am.”

 

According to his criminal file in the District Court of Maryland, Morgan Dane Rosenberg stands at 5-feet-10-inches, weighs 185 pounds, and on the deltoid of his left shoulder bears a triangular red-and-yellow tattoo of the Superman logo. In person, he has a curious bulk, which he wears uneasily. As he walks through the door of a dingy sushi restaurant near his law office, dressed in a button-down shirt and tight blue slacks, he moves as if wearing a bullet-proof vest, his chest and arms overdeveloped after years of weightlifting. His hair is thinning, with gray feathers at the sides. When he talks, his mouth curls in a half-smirk. When he listens, he has the habit of looking at your chin as you speak, which gives the impression that either your words mean a great deal to him, or nothing at all.

He is here to talk about his life as a writer, and he opens by confessing to fraud. “I was a faker,” he says, with the half-smirk. “I started out as a fake.”

Rosenberg began writing in college, at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass., an engineering school where he was admitted after displaying a deftness with numbers, if not with people. He was, he recalls, “the classic nerd.” But he found himself drawn to the campus playwriting festival, with a strange mixture of attraction and contempt.

“Being a physics major and obviously disdaining the arts, I said to myself, ‘I could do that. I can write a play. It’s easy.’ So I went back to my dorm room, and I wrote down a scene—completely surreal. I figured: artsy, surreal, make a bunch of stuff up, people will think it’s meaningful. And that’s exactly what happened.”

The scene, he says, was about two people playing “a game of strange chess with them just throwing these crazy lines back and forth,” and—in a move that would prefigure his self-publishing—he circulated it around campus himself. “I showed it around to people and they’re like, ‘Oh this is really deep,’ even though I just dreamed up some imagery that I thought was weird.”

Scorn for his audience notwithstanding, he enrolled in a theater class and began writing plays, which from the beginning featured a furtively eerie character named Morgan. In an early, “meaningless” play, he says, “Morgan’s a guy in a coffee shop on a Friday night who can’t get a date.” Soon, he evolves into “a sexy killer” in an insane asylum. In time, Rosenberg was writing “weird and violent plays” for the campus festivals, which eventually necessitated a script “about a playwright who must explain to his new girlfriend why he writes plays about killing all his girlfriends.” He says he doesn’t remember what that explanation was.

But after reading just a few pages of his writing, it seems clear enough. By the time he received his joint degree in 1995, in physics and mathematics, there was a Morgan Rosenberg of fiction and a Morgan Rosenberg of fact, and the two from then on would neither part company nor completely join it. The fictional Rosenberg became a sort of surrogate, less like a sophisticated alter ego than like a child’s imaginary friend, a doppelgänger who could act out fantasies that the real Rosenberg could not. For instance, in the distillations of his college scripts that appear in his first book, Morgan Rosenberg is permitted to: come out to his father as a homosexual; beat to death the college jock who dates a female friend of his; simulate sex with a beauty queen; and kill an Audience Member who calls out from the house floor that the play is “self-serving trash.” By venting in print, Rosenberg’s fictions became fixed, for him, as emotional “honesty,” and the habit of self-soothing writing therapy had begun.

“The first time I ever wrote down some deep, dark stuff, I didn’t know whether I should or not,” he says. “I was really nervous about it, but I decided to do it because I had a really good story that I wanted to write. . . . And when it came out and you read it, it felt good to me. I can’t explain why. It just felt good. . . . It felt like something had been stripped away. Something I’d been hiding behind had been stripped away.”

Writing stories of deadly revenge became a form of exhibitionism, and when he returned to Maryland after college, Rosenberg passed up no opportunity to expose himself. In the mid-’90s, he says, he began to work as a model (the owner of the local County Seat clothing franchise approached him at a gym, saying he had “a nice look,” and soon he was signed with the William Morris Agency); he started working weekends as a stripper at the now-defunct gay club Atlantis (evidenced by the club posters on his web sites, one of which depicts him nude, straddling a motorcycle); and he cut a figure for himself in the nightclub scene (most notably Club 1722 on North Charles Street, which he refers to in his stories as 1277).

There was also the doctorate in physics at the University of Maryland at College Park in 1997, which he says he obtained back when he had “great promise as an intellectual,” and the law degree, which he got in 2001, he says, “because I knew I didn’t want to go into physics as a career.” He was even married for a period of six weeks, he reports. He mailed his wedding photo to his college alumni association in 2000, which still displays it on its web page: In a darkened nightclub, the newlyweds grin from behind sunglasses, the bride, Audrey, in a black Lycra halter, the groom sporting a mesh shirt and a wreath of laurel in his hair.

Indeed, Rosenberg’s image of himself, and his amateur writing, became transfixed on the club scene, especially on what he saw to be its transgressive appeal. In a setting so rife with the potential for self-display and sexual misadventure, Morgan Rosenberg the imaginary friend became someone perhaps worth bragging about.

“I had all these stories building up and I used to tell people my stories,” he says. “Y’know. ‘I had sex with this girl. I did these drugs. I went to this club.’ And people kept telling me, ‘You should write these down.’ Now, I had all my plays, and I said, ‘I don’t want to write another play. Lemme write one of these stories down.’ And I did. And I said, ‘This isn’t so bad. Let me write another one of these stories down.’”

The result is Sex, Death and Travel, a compilation of early plays and subsequent prose intended to document his sexual exploits, minister to festering resentments, telegraph Baltimore club gossip to those “in the know,” and shock others who might happen upon it with episodes of misogynistic violence.

“A lot of sex happened at 1277,” a typical excerpt begins.

 

When it was originally just a dark gay bar, there was fucking and sucking in every dark corner. But when it turned into the hip, underground place to be, the sex was a bit more . . . discreet. Michelle the Cunt and I once went up to the sealed-off fourth floor just to see what was up there. We ended up fucking against the ice machine.

 

He quickly followed this with another, almost identical book—its opening third is in fact a screenplay version of Sex, Death and Travel, which Rosenberg refers to as his “movie.” But the remainder is 300 pages of slapdash journal entries: He recounts more club dish, weighs in on his fondness for ecstasy and MTV’s Sorority Life, and airs unannounced hatreds for all manner of people, ranging from a date who wouldn’t sleep with him (“How fucking unfair is that?”) to his father (“the god, king, larger than life rat bastard who ruined my life”). He believes this book to be the better of his two. He calls it Beauty Is a Beast: Or, Women Don’t Like the Word Cunt.

Together, the books distinguish themselves mainly with their lack of imaginative drive, the prosaic nature of the writing matched only by the thoroughness of its self-regard. There is Rosenberg’s prowling for sex in Baltimore’s clubs, his weekends spent end-to-end on ecstasy. There is stripping. There are bouts of impotence and sexual performance anxiety. There is shoplifting at the local Giant. There is his first gay encounter at a porn theater in college. There are e-mail exchanges in which he seduces a girl who wouldn’t have him in high school. There is his failure to perform pull-ups in ninth grade gym class, as the coach called him “sissy.”

And then there are the scenes to which every anecdote inevitably wends—the woman-killing fantasies that are as dispassionately grotesque as they are strangely consistent.

He breaks into the apartment of his ex-wife, whom he here calls Katt, ties her to the bed, and whacks at her shoulders and hips with an axe until her limbs sever. For another woman who wronged him, the high school debutante, he opens her cartoid artery with a knife in her sleep. For the date who refused to have sex with him, he knocks her unconscious with a porcelain toilet lid, flays her corpse, and feeds the viscera to her dogs. And at an after-hours rowhouse party, he loses patience with his date, shoots her in the head with a Walther PPK, and then guns down, stabs, or disembowels the remaining 16 party guests, including a woman whose vulva he slices open with an electric carving knife, and an infant whose skull he collapses with his hands.

“I picked up the baby du jour and did something I had always wanted to do,” he writes on page 141 of Sex, Death and Travel:

 

I found his ‘soft spot’ and started pressing on it, slowly increasing the pressure and very slowly allowing my finger to go deeper and deeper into its skull. The baby squirmed, but to its credit, didn’t cry. It took quite awhile until I felt the resistance of its brain.

 

“I think that violence is sexy,” Rosenberg says at lunch. “I get off on it. I like blood. And I would like—I’ve always wanted to see myself as someone dangerous. Most of my life was spent as a shy, socially retarded nerd. I wanted to be dangerous and mysterious and sexy. And what’s more dangerous and mysterious than a cunning mass murderer? Who nobody knows is a mass murderer?”

 

Shock value is, of course, a key element in Rosenberg’s effort to control the story—to get the kind and amount of attention that he wants—and so is the idea that his very needs themselves lend him an air of exceptionality. When his sushi arrives, a small plate of nigiri, he brushes aside his chopsticks and asks for a fork. “People sometimes take offense,” he says, nodding toward the waitress who lights out looking for silverware. “But I see no reason why I should be inconvenienced.”

This exceptionality also serves to explain, to him, why no one will publish his work. Traditional publishers, he says, found his writing “too dark, too artsy, too controversial. They’re afraid to publish this sort of thing.”

As a recourse, he turned to the web-based vanity press iUniverse, which he paid $500 to print both his books on demand—the first in 2002, the second in 2003—and to list them on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble web sites. Since then, he hasn’t gotten much feedback, but that which he has falls along the lines of this reader review on Amazon, titled “Barf bag, please”:

 

The author seems to have invented literary autofellatio. He supposedly lives a wild and crazy lifestyle. Women, drugs, danger, etc, and uses this book as a medium to brag about his trumped-up tales. . . . If the author were any more self-centered, he would just learn real autofellatio and give up on women. Or maybe he already had that rib removed.

 

Another reader listed Rosenberg’s web sites on SomethingAwful.com, a charnel house for internet embarrassments, where the webmaster dubbed Rosenberg “almost emo in [his] whinyness [sic].”

Rosenberg sees responses like these as a sign of success, because they mean he has managed to offend his readers. “I love it. ‘Cause they’re reacting to me. I’m not anonymous,” he says, having now gotten his fork. “People read my writing. It makes them mad, but they read it.”

And those who don’t like it, he says, have merely been victimized by a culture of political correctness that keeps them from seeing difficult truths.

“Most people don’t get It—with a capital ‘I,’” he says. “They just don’t get It. They’re not equipped to get It, they’re programmed not to get It. . . . It is the understanding of the real world. I don’t mean that in the physics sense, I mean the way that the world really works, and seeing it without blinders. The biggest example I can give, and also the most inflammatory, would be, say, religion. People are blinded by their beliefs. A very religious person doesn’t want to listen to anyone else. They generally don’t have open minds about things.

“Being able to see behind the scenes,” he says. “The man behind the curtain. That would be getting It.”

But as breezily as he talks about “the man behind the curtain,” Rosenberg is still cagey when it comes to where and whether any truth can be found in his writing. Particularly when it comes to those scenes that might hamper a career in patent law, were they true, he plays fast and loose.

“As for the criminal elements listed in the books, other than the drug abuse, I’d never admit,” he says. “As far as I’m willing to admit, you can choose whether it’s fiction or not by yourself.”

And in a point whose nuance can best be described as lawyerly, the key, Rosenberg suggests, is not in the “truth” of what he writes, but in its “honesty.”

“Honestly, I think that my readers—the real readers, the ones who like it—I think they know the difference between what’s true and what’s fictional,” he says. “Because what I write is very honest, it’s written very honestly. I describe my most intimate thoughts and emotions when I write honestly. When it comes to the fictional stuff, that’s just glitz and glam and I think you can see through that. . . . So the fiction is there to enhance the story, to add humor, to add cleverness, or, if I’m feeling bad about myself that day, to make myself seem a little bit better. I don’t make up any of the important stuff.”

But Rosenberg still—after discussing his writing at such length—leaves open certain chilling possibilities. He won’t recognize, for instance, that while he clearly hasn’t committed many of the acts he has written about, it may matter whether he wishes he had. And moreover, he readily acknowledges that the pure rage that fuels his fiction is, in fact, part of his “honesty.”

“It’s very therapeutic to take out my anger that way,” he says. “I’m a very—in real life, not in my fictional role—I’m a very shy, quiet, almost timid intellectual. But in my books, if I’m mad at a woman or the world, I can take out that aggression any way that I want. I’m not a psychologist, but I would think that this is a healthy way of venting.”

And it is here when you know for certain that the malevolent insecurity in the fiction of Morgan Rosenberg is more than a literary device, more than the kind you find in slasher fiction, or goth music, or horror movies but which always remain confined to the story. As a writer, he is no longer faking it, and the clearest sign of this is that all of the violence he portrays is inflicted—save the occasional party-goer or infant—against women.

“As for the misogyny, yes, I am a misogynist,” he says, and for the first time not smirking. “Yes. And it’s because of all those years that I spent as Morgan the physics major, Morgan the nerd, when no one would talk to me. Because I wasn’t good-looking enough. I wasn’t cool enough. And it left a very, very strong mark on me. That they didn’t like me for my intellect. I had to build muscle for them to like me. So naturally I’m a misogynist.” He puts down his fork. “How could I not hate somebody like that?”

 

“Um, one thing I should mention—I should’ve mentioned this earlier—it’s not a big point, but I’d prefer if you did not mention the law firm or my father in the article,” Rosenberg says, soon before the dishes are to be cleared. “I write about it, but I prefer to keep my writing career separate from my law career.”

The number of things Morgan Rosenberg does not care to discuss about himself is very small, but the reality of his life is one of them.

“I don’t want people showing up at my office.” he says. “I don’t want phone calls. I don’t want e-mail, hate mail, and all of that.”

This is Morgan Rosenberg again trying to control the story. After writing two books about himself, publishing those books when no one else would, and contacting a journalist in hope of promoting those books, he nonetheless becomes visibly, and increasingly, agitated about certain personal topics—like his job and his father—when they come up.

“So far, after all these years, no one has ever called up the law firm asking for me who knew about me from my books or my web site. I want to keep it that way. No one has ever written to me at my firm e-mail account saying, ‘Hey, did you go out and do E this weekend?’ I want to keep it that way.”

At first you think that this is just an effort to keep his double life in balance, to keep his writing life from tipping into his professional life. But when you listen closely to his pleas, you see that this is not quite it.

“So I’d really prefer if you did not even say I work as a patent attorney. I would prefer if you didn’t say that I work for my father. Everything else in this interview, you can use. I can’t stop you from doing this. I’m just asking you. You can certainly shape a good story without using those elements.”

When you refuse to commit to his demands, he appears disappointed. When you tell him that you need more new facts before you begin eliding old ones, he nods and grins in a way that comes across as sportsmanlike. He is silent on your way to the door, which he holds open for you.

“This is where I take you to my basement and dismember you,” he says.

 

These are the facts as they are known.

The William Morris Agency, which Rosenberg claims represented him as a fashion model, has never heard of him.

The woman in the wedding photo that Rosenberg sent to his college alumni association is not named Audrey. Her name is Pam, and they were never married.

The physics department at the University of Maryland at College Park has no record of Morgan Rosenberg ever having received a Ph.D. Transcripts indicate that he completed the requirements for a non-thesis Masters of Science degree in 1997 but never obtained a doctorate. The university official in charge of the department’s records, who asked not to be named, in fact remembers Rosenberg, and describes him as having been “polite and quiet.”

The University of Maryland Law School has no record of Morgan Rosenberg ever having graduated. While he was enrolled from 1997 to the spring of 2001, he never received a degree. The Maryland State Bar Association does not list him as a member. He is not registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as is required of attorneys in intellectual property law. And he does not appear as attorney of record on the filings from the office where he works. The attorney of record in those cases is Morgan Rosenberg’s father —the “other Rosenberg who works in my office.”

Indeed, the only aspect of his life and writing that can be verified independently consists of one incident, at 6:20 p.m. on May 1, 2004, on the 200 block of North Haven Street, in which Morgan Rosenberg allegedly offered $40 for sex to an undercover police officer. He was arrested for soliciting prostitution, pleaded not guilty, and Judge Jeannie Hong handed down probation before judgment, sentencing him to 24 hours of community service plus six months of unsupervised probation, which expires next week.

When you go over these facts with Morgan Rosenberg at his spartan apartment in downtown Baltimore, he does not appear defensive or flummoxed. As he sits across from you at his dining table, his gaze moves from your chin to a shifting point on the lavender carpet. He folds his arms across the chest of his white T-shirt, which is emblazoned with the Superman logo.

“Agents go in and out like you wouldn’t believe,” he explains of the William Morris Agency. “It’s so many years later.”

“Don’t believe that,” he says of the fake wedding photo. “I needed something interesting to say when they came asking for alumni notes, so I just made that up. I was actually seeing Audrey at the time, but Pam was better-looking, and it sounded more interesting to say I was married. So.”

“Actually, I got my Ph.D. approximately a year and a half after I was granted the masters,” he says of his academic record. “I do, in fact, have the sheepskin hanging in my office.” You ask when the degree was conferred. “That would be December of ‘98.” He pauses. “No. December of ‘99.” He pauses again. “No, I’m sorry. It was December of ‘98.” After more mulling, and more questions: “December of ‘97—that’s the first semester of law school, and I was still going for the Ph.D. at that time. That’s when it ended. It was December of ‘97. December of ‘97.” When asked why the department, whose records officer still remembers him, is unambiguous about him never having gotten such a degree, he says, “That would be a clerical error.” A follow-up visit to the physics department would show that not to be the case.

And finally: “That’s actually true,” he says of his legal credentials. “I’m not a practicing attorney. I don’t sign my name to anything, I don’t meet with clients on my own. I do everything an attorney would do, but it’s not”—his voice stalls. “Y’know, it’s not on my own. I’m always supervised.” Again, a pause. “I am registered with the patent office as a patent agent.” He just passed the federal patent agent’s exam this past April, he says, on his third try.

He promises to send you a photograph of himself, in his office, standing next to both his Ph.D. diploma and his patent-agent registration. The photo will never arrive. When you send a photographer to his office to volunteer to take it, Rosenberg will not let him in. Instead, you will learn that Rosenberg is not registered as a patent agent, either, although he applied twice to take the agent exam. And there was no exam held this past April.

“Uh, I couldn’t take the people anymore,” Rosenberg says, of his decision to drop out of law school. “I hated it. I just couldn’t take the people anymore. They drove me out of classes that—I couldn’t deal with these law-school people.” You ask what, specifically, drove him out. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I found it to be a repulsive environment. Because of the students. I can deal with professors yelling at me, but because of the students. I find that type of person loathsome.” You ask what type of person. “It’s the phony, smarmy, pseudointellectuals.”

And when you ask why he so loathed the phonies, he finally says, “I have no story. I just couldn’t stand being physically there.”

This, it turns out, appears to be his real double life. He has no story in this instance, because the story is not to his advantage. There’s only the story of his life, and for him it’s not enough.

The point is not that Morgan Rosenberg is not who he says he is. This might be said of many of us. And the point is not that Morgan Rosenberg’s image of himself is at odds with reality. The stories he has written, after all, he has written for himself—“therapy,” as he put it at the outset. And the point is not that the Morgan Rosenberg of fact is different than the Morgan Rosenberg of fiction.

The point is that Morgan Rosenberg is a writer for whom fiction is something more than a hobby.

“Now it’s almost an obsession with me,” he was saying, a few minutes before his résumé came up. “I have to write down everything—and not just [write it] down for myself, I have to expose everything in my life. All the bad stuff. Anything that I would hide.

“Like getting arrested for picking up a prostitute. Let’s say I was courting a woman. You don’t want her to know that you were arrested for picking up a streetwalker. But it’s on my site. There’s a whole page dedicated to it. It’s very freeing. And not just the act of carrying around this big secret and wondering if it’ll ever come out, but, it’s almost a test. If you can deal with all this stuff about me that is open and in my books and on my site and well-known, then I like you. And it means you probably like me.

“They [my readers] already know all the bad stuff about me. All the deepest, darkest, most vile secrets—they already know about them. Assuming they’re interested in me.”

Then, as if to prove himself capable, Rosenberg at last does exactly what he says. Immediately after you leave, he turns on his computer, goes to one of his web sites, and sets about the work of restoring control. He recounts the details of your visit that day.

“Over the years, naturally, I’ve lied about a few things here and there,” he writes on his blog. “Made my story, the ‘legend,’ more interesting than it really was, and we’re not talking about the fictionalized stuff in my books, I mean my biography, padded the résumé as it were . . .

“I’ve always wanted infamy, true infamy, and now that it’s staring me in the face, I think to myself, ‘What have I done?’” Rosenberg concludes. “Anonymity, that’s what I really want. And what I also really want is to be able to learn how to keep my fucking mouth shut.”

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