Readers, Help Me

            I have many curious problems.  I am phobic of telephones; I would go to great lengths to avoid mailing a package; I’m so terrified of mustard that even typing the word gives me an infarction.  But today I have a new problem, and I am writing this entry to ask for your help. 

            I’m currently writing a book, a non-fiction collection of essays called Outlaw Quaker Girl.  I would be the outlaw, in case you were confused by my earnestness and commitment to fair trade.  I’m doing a great deal of research, both original writing and secondary, and there are a few first-rate Quaker historians.  One of my professors in seminary, John Punshon, wrote what was considered, for many years, the definitive history of Quakerism.  But there’s a new man in the corral, and his books are critical to my research.  As far as I can tell he owns Quaker scholarship, both in England and in America.  In my introductory chapter he is mentioned almost immediately, and this is where my problem arises.

            His name is . . . . I can’t do it.  SEE?  SEE HOW DIFFICULT THIS IS?  His name is Pink Dandelion.  If I remember correctly from the time he spent at the Earlham School of Religion while I was in seminary, that was his given name.  However, when I knew him he was called “Ben” Pink Dandelion – the quotation marks were part of the name, so at least when one ran in to him in the common room one could say, “Hey, ‘Ben’.”  But all of his books are now published under the name Pink, so he dropped the “Ben.”  Imagine that.  You decide to drop one of those three names and you choose the one that is not only normal, attractive, and manly, but comes with its own quotation marks, as if his name is really quoting someone else’s name.  It’s a puzzle.

            For the record, this is a pink dandelion:

            What a pretty little thing.

            Now, I am going to describe my dilemma and then I would like for you to vote on how best to handle it.  In the introduction, when I first mention his name, one of two things will happen:

            1.  People will assume I am making a joke (even though I am a deadly serious person), and so to prevent that I will have to offer SOME aside, explaining that Pink Dandelion is really his name, and he is a man with immaculate credentials and the best Quaker scholar currently at work, and so please to let us get on with the book and no giggling about Pink Dandelion.  Do you see the problem with this?  I am drawing attention to the name and suggesting that OF COURSE people are going to be deeply confused, will giggle, and perhaps will even begin having symptoms of the ague.

            2.  I mention his name for the first time and say nothing.  Ergo, everyone will assume I am making him up, like he is my imaginary Quaker historian friend who lives in the wall of the barn and tells me secrets about the Restoration period in British history.

            3.  I say SOMETHING, but it is humble and respectful.  But little Jebus, what would that be?

            4.  I contact Pink Dandelion and ask his advice as to how best deal with the introduction of his name in what is sure to be an absurd book anyway; have mercy I’m just an awful Quaker.  Lazy, uninvolved, only convinced about half the time, secretly critical of the testimony of some other Quakers because I feel superior to them and think what they’re saying is self-evident or facile – you get it.  And from ME, an IDIOT, he receives a question that PRESUPPOSES there is something heinously wrong with his name and he must help me so my book isn’t ruined.

            And there you have it.  That’s all I’ve got.  I insult him, or I insult him, or I insult him, or finally, I insult him.  Someone else – a good person, someone totally unlike me – fix this and tell me what to do.  I will owe you a small token of gratitude (I haven’t gotten as far as what it would be) and it’s also possible you’d never receive it, so thank you DOUBLY for your generosity.


Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 11:42 pm  Comments (38)  


  1. How about, “Some names have been changed to protect the innocent” ?
    Or number 3. Honestly, after having just recently discovered you (via Augusten’s blog) I can already tell I shouldn’t take a thing you say seriously! ya big jokester, you!

  2. Not sure it will help but ‘Ben’ gave the 2003 Walton Lecture “Convinced Quakerism” to SEYM about his spiritual and non spiritual journeys and how he came to be a Quaker, called as he is – Its available at

  3. If I recall in the past with on of your characters, Dr. Mood, you cited him as, ‘Dr. Mood (that’s his real name)’. Perhaps that could be done again? Let Pink know ahead of time that this is necessary as his name is so blessedly…er, unique! It takes time for the rest of the world to catch up to such imagination and originality that it needs to be spelled out for them. This wording could indeed soften the blow to the realisation that Pink Dandelion might not be considered seriously at the Social Security Office.

    If readers will also require a visual, may I suggest you adding some cute little cartoon eyes and a nice smiley face to the Pink Dandelion photo?

    Much luck on your quest!

  4. What if you called him “The Quaker Formerly Known as “Ben”.” Although, then people might confuse him with Ben Franklin. So…that might not work.

  5. Er, i think you answered your own question already…the introduction of Pink (i wish his last name was Floyd, but I’m not his mother)you gave in your blog is fine for the book. You explain your respect for the man, give a short little history, and Blammo! what blog readers know is what you’d want book readers to know.

  6. I LOVE all these suggestions. Graham, I ordered the transcript of that lecture just yesterday, if you can believe it. And Laura, you are so right — I could just tell the truth and hope for the best. It’s just that Quakers have a tendency to . . . well, like this. When he was visiting ESR? I was the only person who would admit his name was “Ben” Pink Dandelion. Everyone else acted as if he had the most normal name in the world. Radical egalitarianism and all that, which I HIGHLY respect, but one must admit what is directly in front of one, yes? And Miriam, I’ll go with your plan but only if he’ll change his name AGAIN to an unpronounceable symbol. And declare himself a slave to Sony records.

  7. My response is kind of boring! I’d contact him and hope he said just write Pink Dandelion because then I wouldn’t have to actually type too much in the book. I hate to type and as a reader I would rather just wonder about his name than have your explanation.(Sorry!) I could Google his name and see what came up if I was curious.

  8. If he gets offended can you just blame it on the publisher?

  9. Now blaming it on the publisher is a FINE idea, except totally unQuakerly. So you see my dilemma.

  10. Assuming your collection glides on the same tones of impossible charm as your previous non-fiction work, I think you’d be best served trusting whichever option your instincts are telling you to choose. It’ll probably come to you in a wacky Zen moment wherein you stand on one foot like The Karate Kid and hear the answer spoken in the breeze.

    But if I have to choose for the sake of the ballot box, I bet the breeze will say, “One!” This despite the fact that breezes have a tendency to sound like long vowel sounds. I cannot imagine that Mr. Dandelion hasn’t heard it all before, and I have heard tales of scholars with an excellent sense of humor. You can’t go wrong with the absolute truth, and if you lovingly spin his introduction (which as Laura said, you did just fine here in the blog), not a word will be said about it upon publication.

  11. Contact Mr D and ask him to use the link ( mentioning his name.
    Then people will know it is for real. Not only does it give some credit to the man it also might give you reason to contact him and that could be even better than researching.
    Wish you could come to Michigan in the fall but it would be one more grandma to see I suppose.

  12. If the Quaker formerly known as “Ben” sees his name as a large boil on his nose, he’d have changed it years ago. Unless he’s named after great-uncle Pink Dandelion who won’t leave him anything if he changes it, but in that case you probably wouldn’t respect him as you seem to).

    I’d like to think you’d give your trusting readers just a little context, so we know where we are.

  13. Haven,
    I hope you are having a good day. I have thought about this some more and I think my modified option #4. Is still the best answered to your problem but then again what do I know about writing a book.
    I never made it past plagiarizing Twilight Zones.
    Unlike some people out there who were smart enough to use something of quality substance and foundation like the Andy Griffith Show.

    However I expect an advanced edition of Iodine since my Idea is SOOOO good. 😉


  14. The book I am reading right now – Last One Home by John Ehle – has a character named Pink, short for Pickney.

    That helps you with your problem not one lick, I just thought it was a sort of interesting coincidence. 😉

  15. as i was reading i kept thinking “hasn’t this been covered somewhere before???” and then one of the commenters said as much… you did! (that’s his real name).

    most of the internets seems to treat Pink Dandelion’s name without comment, but since this is Haven Kimmel’s book people will, in fact, need an explanation. i agree with the others that you combined your loving respect with passionate incredulity with great success here on the blog… i’m sure it would translate well to the book.

  16. P.S. I, too, am EXCEEDINGLY phonephobic. Telephones (and balloons) are nothing more than a nightmare awaiting the breath of life.

  17. Phones make me nervous, especially if I have to call someone I have never met before.

    Freakishly enough, I worked as a phone operator in a hotel/casino for a few years. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact I almost never had to make any calls out. I mostly transferred a lot of calls incoming calls.

  18. Hi Haven,

    Why not invite Pink to write the introduction to your book himself?

    Love, Katherine

  19. I’d use his entire name, Ben Pink-Dandelion. Most readers will probably assume he grew up in the hippie era. My parents harbored a draft dodger on the run from the FBI while he was withdrawing from heroin in 1967, and while he and his girlfriend were living with us they had a baby they named Tangerine. Sounds crazywack but it made sense at the time. Anyhoo, I’d use it as is with no apologies, just like he does. No matter what readers think, that’s his name, right?

  20. I’m thinking you should go with a David Foster Wallace-esque footnote on this one. I can’t wait to see the cover for this book. Will we get to see some crazy college days photo of you? Or have you got a rider in your contract now that no book will ever again have a photo of you on the cover?

  21. Dear Ms. Kimmel,

    I don’t know when you posted your Pink Dandelion dilemma, so this may come well after the fact.

    I wouldn’t consult Mr. Dandelion on how to deal with his name. He knows perfectly well it’s absurd and is probably just waiting for you to ask him about it–sitting in the dark as we speak, composing and rehearsing the scathing things he’ll say to you. So just use the name without comment, though I would certainly throw in the “Ben”, whether he still uses it or not.

    I sincerely hope you add some signings in Pennsylvania to your “Iodine” tour.

    Michael Norell
    Three Springs PA

  22. Dear Haven,

    The poet Larry Levis once had a girlfriend named “Tall Dog.” For real. And he introduced her at his reading with a completely straight face: “I’d like to thank my girlfriend, Tall Dog.”

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez said he wanted to write 100 years of Solitude with the same tone that his grandmother always used — as if outrageous things were completely true. “Then a giant swarm of yellow butterflies lifted her away.” That’s what happened.

    So my thought is: just say his name like its Bill Smith and then when you are on Oprah, she will ask: “So, is this really non-fiction? I mean whats with this Pink Dandelion character?” And you can just nod your head and say, “Oh, that is his real name.”

    It will be funny.

    love, S

  23. I think the dude may already know his name is, ummm, precious. 🙂

  24. As someone who had an unusual name (and was a bit relieved to change it) I think you should just mention it as if it’s nothing and then list some sources at the end of the introduction–there’s bound to be at least one by him–and then people will be able to see that his name is, in fact, Pink Dandelion and there it is in academic black and white.

    Or you could go back to blaming the publisher, I thought that was a fine idea!

  25. Interesting dilemma. I think you use his name as he uses it. In doing so, you are respecting him. As for your reader, sure, they may chuckle when they hear the name in their heads, but so does anyone who is introduced to Pink Dandelion in person; that internal tickle lasts for a moment, then the person moves past it as he/she gets to know Pink. If that is good enough for Pink, which apparently it is, then you honor him even more by making it good enough for you.


  26. How about thumbnail photographs starting with, say, John Punshon. Underneath Mr. Punshon’s photo print his full name with honoraria: Dr. John Punshon, Ph.D.
    Particle Physics, M.Div, M.S. Mathematics. Currently DuPont Professor of Quaker Studies at Indiana Uni-versity. Then to the right of the picture: a blurb:
    ‘Best Outlaw Biography Ever!’

    Next comes the thumbnail and qualifications of ‘Ben’ Pink Dandelion, same structure as the first. Pro-pinquity! It might work!

  27. A. Thank you — you have all been very helpful, or at least funny.
    B. I shall die from the idea of “pro-pinquity.”
    C. Miss Katherine, my love, I would love to ask “Ben” Pink to write the forward to my book, but I believe after reading it, he would have a conversion experience opposite to Quakerism, and try to have me burned at the stake.
    4. I have decided to ask my blog readers more questions, because you are all obviously much brighter than I, and I really am confused about so much.
    G. I’m 100 pages into the book, and each time I type, “As Dandelion describes it . . . .” I have to close my eyes and say to myself, Please please please grow up. Please grow up, Haven.

  28. What about using his last name first , (comma)then his first name? I know it’s still Pink Dandelion but now just not in that order. Zero help, I know. What about using first or last name initial only? Like – P. Dandelion or Pink D. ??? Ok well, I tried – granted, not very hard… but still more than I usual try at anything else and that’s a lot! I will await my small token of your gratitude anyway and see what comes. I can hardly wait. I hope it’s a pink dandelion tote bag!

  29. I think if Ben Franklin can marry Betsy Ross in Philadelphia, Pa and get a warm reception w/o so much as a laugh, than you can pull off Mr. Dandelion or whatever you choose to use. I however, am leaning towards Pink D. as it is masculine yet says he’s in touch with his feminine side.

    Phiadelphia, PA

  30. I vote for option number 4. That is tricky!

  31. On first reference, footnote your dear readers to something he has published…I think that is the route to the gravity you seek.

  32. UPDATE ON PINK DILEMMA: So I’ve noticed that I’m able to use just PD in footnotes, and every time I see it I think, “Thank god I could just use his initials.” What occurs to me now: Why is his name Pink Dandelion? What are we to think about it? What is PD asking of us with his name, if you see what I mean. In one of Martin Amis’s novels, The Information, the narrator describes how everything in the physical world is out to get us. You’re walking through a doorway and catch your new sweater on a nail. Amis asks: What is in it for the nail? What is in it for Pink Dandelion? His name has become an active part of my daily suffering over how HARD THIS BOOK IS.

    By the way, Fresh As A Daisy, the very first time Ben Franklin visited Philadelphia he was exhausted from his travels and wanted to find some place to stop and sit down. He saw through a window a group of people gathered and thinking it might be a — what did he think it was? Oh, who can tell, I’m sure if you were surrounded by Puritans you would be difficult to shock. So Franklin wandered in and sat down and pondered just a moment how everyone was completely silent, and then immediately fell asleep. He slept through the entire Meeting for Worship, which at that time lasted around three hours, and when the service was over someone kindly woke him. “And that was the very first place I ever visited in Philadelphia,” he wrote.

    I think if I go with Pink D. I will add the epithet Macdaddy Pink D. And I’ll give him his own theme song, maybe “Cadillac Ranch.” THINGS ARE LOOKING UP IN THE BARN OF SILENCE!

    Note to George: I fear it is gravity seeking me.

  33. I kinda wandered in here from somewhere else (not sure how) and will be going somewhere else later (not sure where). I see no dilemma..simply introduce him and tell your readers for more info: google…dignity for all:

    Look at what Moon Unit Zappa has achieved…again google..

    wandering off now

  34. Haven…Kinda sorry I wandered back in…Doesn’t seem he is trying to “say” anything with his name…It was given to him…In fact the “Ben” was probably the name he gave himself to fit in. What’s “in it” for Pink, is that he probably decided to live with his name…and it works. If his writings make an impact, it’s easy to remember who wrote them. Lemons and lemonade maybe? As for you, write your book, if it’s from the heart, it should flow.

    As for me and the as it sounds like fun to give pleasure to a nail….I’d just think I wasn’t watching where I was going…

  35. No, now that I have read more of your work, I think you probably escaped the bounds of gravity at a young age. You may be in thrall to gravy, your being from Indiana and a current resident of The South.

    I do believe most readers will not have a problem with the name of Pink Dandelion, particularly those who will not blink when you refer to Elton Trueblood, as I assume you will probably do. Many will assume Dandelion is a wise Native American who went the pathway of Quaker theologian.

    Speaking of going Quaker….the silence once gave me a powerful and darned simple insight. It was this: we were sitting quietly at a meeting once and from no place it seemed, I suddenly had this insight based on a voice that was not my own. This statement was, “Respect means to look again.” That was the long and short, the beginning but not the end of it.

    The retelling kinda loses its omph, but we all seek our salvation in fear and trembling, right?

    Fear and trembling was how my brother and I often approached dinner when we were kids. My Mom’s gravy was so thick you basically spread it with a table knife, smearing it like icing over bread, a sausage patty, or whatever.

    It wasn’t until I was a grown up that I escaped the bounds of my mother’s gravy, but how I long for her corn fritters…those babies were asteroids of delight.

  36. Just use his real name. Who cares what people think.

    By the way, I FINALLY got around to reading your first book and LOVED it. I was so very happy for you when you got that darn Christmas present a day early I almost clapped. I’m starting your 4th book now and I’m very happy to find a new author that I like who is young and from the midwest like me. I found your blog via Augusten via his brother John and you guys are all such good writers … and I love that you all take the time to blog as well.

    I just started blogging about 5 1/2 months ago, and feel free to stop by my blog if your bored. I like to call myself a writer when really, I’m more of a dreamer.

  37. Seems like I am reading my way haphazardly through the trilogy: 3-1-2. That’s ok. Didn’t see much of Langston in Used, but I was intrigued. And I liked Amos from jumpstreet. Note to Amos: I suspect all theology bows to a simple, heartfelt hug. Oh, and about Langston: I loved to entice these serious, bookish women by giving them glimpses of personal erudition followed by offers of a tour in perdition. It would go something like this: “Soon’s you get finished reading that copy of Short Life of Kierkegaard, how ’bout taking a leap of faith with me to the Bee Back for a brewskie?”

    Oh, the thing with the girls is absolutely true. Ugh…I hate guns.

    But here is some beauty:

    There is a Quaker cemetery just outside the grounds of the library where I go. People don’t know this, but just before the library closes up, it is not uncommon to see these Quaker ghosts sitting on the bench by the door, trying to get some fresh air.

    “What hast thou checked out today, sir?” asks Zeke Somersault, a ghost friend of mine who generally disguises himself as a homeless guy and jumps from the shadows behind the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee to scare the crap outta local groups taking the Ghost Tour of Alexandria.

    They don’t know they have literally seen a ghost when Zeke appears, crawling out of the dumpster, but the effect is the same. First, gasps (occasional shrieks), followed by revulsion.

    Zeke actually earns a pretty good living for a dead guy. He works at a local shop off King Street called Time Juggler. The Time Juggler is a high-end Victorian antique store with a goodly percentage of regular gay Republican customer, but in the backroom, it is possible for a customer to, well, juggle time and space. But it costs a lot moola. Zeke mostly handles maintenance and janitorial duties.

    “Well, I got another book here by this Indiana/North Carolina writer, Haven Kimmel. She’s a Quaker. Oh, and this biography of Arnold Palmer,” I say to Zeke.

    “Kindly tell Miss Kimmel that Pink Dandelion doesn’t give a hoot in hell what she calls him. Oh, this just in… Elton and Mr. Fox offer kind greetings. They want me to relay this information, and I can vouch for it myself, having been dead myself for nearly 300 years: “No headaches in ultimacy.”

    “Will do,” I say back to Zeke, who says to me:

    “No use talking to a clairvoyant, son. I can tell thoust is remembering the cool oaks that surround the Willard Library. You are thinking of the dull shine on the wood floors, the low growl of the floor fan at the end of the nonfiction section, and the double bump of the librarians’ pencil when she stamped your card and the book.”

    “Take me back there, Zeke. Take me back the next time I go to the Time Juggler.”

    “Save thy money. As I told Ben F., a penny saved is a penny earned, the barcode reader works just fine and there is a child who will remember how they beeped book-by-book before the librarian handed over the stack of treasures.”

    I looked at Zeke. Thought he should really do something about his hair because that whole left side of his skull was showing.

    “Read to me, son, if it should please thee, for mine eyesight ain’t what it was,” asks Zeke.

    So, I opened the book and began: “I sometimes think it’s odd, and in no small part revealing, what you manage not to forget…”

    And pretty soon Zeke is interuppting to tell me about a great round of hashish-influenced golf he once shot in Amsterdam before turning Puritan and heading off for the New World aboard a leaky ship called the Mayflower.

  38. Okay, very late to the game (just discovered and love luv lurv your blog), suspect you may no longer be following this comment thread, but I did have a thought.

    Which now that I have done some research may not actually help much, but here goes: Find someone ELSE with a verging-on-silly name and ask THEM how they prefer (or don’t) others to handle it.

    Specifically, I thought of contacting Breece D’J Pancake.

    But now I have learned that he died a year ago, so that’s not an option. Maybe Daniel Pinkwater?

    In any case, this way you avoid all responsibility for the decision. Which would appeal to me, personally.

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