Of Wanderlust (2003)

Of Wanderlust

PEN America

There was a popular series of illustrated books when I was in England in the late 80s’. It was an unusual series. A silly-looking guy, with thick glasses, and red ski hat, walking around with a walking stick, a backpack, and a white and red stripped shirt, through complex imaginary landscapes. That was the world of Wally, as in “Where is Wally?” Everyone read those books, spending hours to locate for “the silly guy” buried in the various scenery.

When the series was transferred to an American audience, the name was changed to Waldo, which is a weird adjustment, since the new name conveyed nothing of the original title. A Wally is a Wally, not quite an idiot but a stupid or silly person. Waldo carries no meaning whatsoever. Basically the English cheekiness was lost in translation.

Attached is a photograph from a PEN America event back in January 2024. Can you find the Wally/Waldo in the picture? Clue: This Wally attended the event, and his face landed on the main photograph of it. He is standing, clearly a victim of imposter syndrome, along the crop of the best young emerging writing talent in NY. Next to him, Ayana Mathis.