RARA-AVIS: K.C. Constantine

From: kip.stratton@ni.com
Date: 02 Apr 2000

Anthony Mason's "Fine Print" series on CBS SUNDAY MORNING profiled the elusive K.C. Constantine this morning -- probably the finest installment in the series. Constantine was filmed in shadow or with his face otherwise obscured, but he allowed Mason to uncover (and confirm) about everything. Yes, he was a minor league baseball player in the Orioles organization. Yes, he was a Marine. Yes, he took his nom de plume from his Russian father's first name. He is of Russian origin, was an altar boy in the Russian Orthodox Church. Lives in Pennsylvania. Writes in his basement. Two pictures of him were shown: one a photo of him in an Orioles uniform, one a portrait painted of him at 13 by his father, who was a house painter by profession. (He painted the Orthodox Church in Constantine's hometown, across the river from Pittsburgh.) Still lives in Pennsylvania. Constantine named a lot of names: Greenburg, PA is the model of Rocksburg, PA, for instance. Constantine has made his living as a teacher and as a copyeditor. He gave the reasons we've all heard about why he tries to keep so secretive about his true identity: mostly, people treat you differently when they know you're a writer and then you can't learn their real stories (a very rough paraphrase). The most interesting part of the profile concerned the influence of Eric Hoffer on him. Constantine, after the Marines, took an English class in which he failed an assignment, with the instructor saying something like he could never learn how to write. Then Constantine saw a profile of Hoffer on CBS and learned about how he was a self-taught writer. Constantine bought Hoffer's THE TRUE BELIEVER and started literally copying the paragraphs in the book to learn how punctuation works, how tense works, etc. He literally learned the basics of writing/grammar as an adult, from copying Hoffer's stuff word for word. Fascinating stuff. The worst part of the profile: I'm not sure how familiar Mason was with Constantine's work. The casual viewer would come away from the profile without much understanding of the importance of Constantine's series. But, all in all, it was a terrific piece. I'd like to give you a link to the CBS SUNDAY MORNING webpage, where you could get more information about he profile, but CBS apparently decided to post nothing about it. Too bad.


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