I did a search for you on Google and was directed to your university’s website, which contained your e-mail address.

Here comes the gush: When I was 11, I found a book called MULDOON on the shelf of the Lawson-McGhee Library in Knoxville, TN. I loved it and was led by it to your first book, HARD FEELINGS. To say that I merely loved the story of Bernie Hergruter would be an understatement. It’s like that scene inn Annie Hall, where Alvie tries to explain to Annie that he doesn’t just love her, he “lurves” her, he “loaves” her; there’s no word to describe it.

HARD FEELINGS became my favorite book from that first reading, and I’ve read it at least once a year since then. I’m 30, so that means I’ve read the novel around 20 times. Every time I read it, I find something new, and I’ve never read a book in which the characters are so alive. Yeah, nearly six years of grad school in English taught me that verisimilitude does not equal a good work of literature, but screw ’em.

From Bernie’s thoughts about the belt buckle embedded in the road, to his musing on the reality of experiencing “my time of day,” to the descriptions of fumbling sex with Barbara that made my 13-year-old imagination go out of control, to the tenderness with which you treat Bernie’s relationship to Winona, to Bernie’s emergence as a sports hero . . .What can I say? I just love the book. I could go on and on.

It also inspired me as a writer. For instance, when I lived in Las Vegas and began freelancing for local papers, I couldn’t use my real name because the English department at UNLV would have canned my ass for having a job outside of just making the equivalent of four bucks an hour teaching freshman comp classes. I chose the byline “Lee Bridgman,” after Bernie’s best friend.

More importantly, you helped me learn that a work of literature can be amusing and about “real” people and “ordinary” events and yet still be a great work of art. Your book is at least one of the reasons I became an English major in the first place.

I’d like to say more, but I don’t want this e-mail to run on forever, nor do I want to come off like a total nut. The bottom line is that, although you don’t know me and I don’t know you, you have had an immensely widespread effect on my life. I have my copy of HARD FEELINGS beside me right now, and it’s like one of my oldest and very best friends. Thank you for writing it.

[name withheld]