In my latest American travel memoir, Turn Left at the Trojan Horse, I passed through a town called Laporte, located in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. There I met a remarkable woman who called herself Mollie Sheldon Elliot. It turns out that Mollie, Sheldon, and Elliot are three of more than a dozen disparate personalities within her, the products of dissociative identity disorder stemming from childhood molestation. Each is aware of the others, a group that includes a baby, a teenager, a fellow who speaks with an Irish brogue, even an elderly Native American man. When talking about herself, she uses the pronoun “we.”
“We started out with four of us who were together all the time, and then we began to suspect—and that was part of the midlife crisis—that there were other personalities hanging around,” she told me. “We sensed that there were more, and we’ve had a series of alters—that’s the word psychologists use—show up. We kind of view it as coming in from the cold.”
She is, in fact, a warm and intelligent woman—and an author. A few years back, she wrote an autobiography about her experiences. She called the book Portrait of Q, which is what she calls the system that constitutes herself. The Trekkie in me understood the reference immediately. Q was a recurring character on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” who possessed both an individual and communal perspective as part of the Q Continuum, an omnipotent collective of beings who seemed to guide the fortunes of mankind.
So in honor of Mollie Sheldon Elliot—really, in honor of Q, my favorite pen name—we at the Why Not 100 offer an alphabet of literary information that might someday be useful, if only to impress your friends:
A is for A.A. Milne, who first published Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. Yep, the hyphens were there at first—until Disney adopted the books into a series of features and dropped them. Did you know it was translated into Latin (Winne Ille Pu) and in 1960 was the first Latin language book ever to hit The New York Times bestseller list? Did you know that Milne had a son name Christopher Robin? Did you know that Christopher named his toy bear after “Winnie,” a Canadian black bear at the London Zoo who had in turn been named by the hunter who captured him after his adopted hometown of Winnipeg? Did you know that Pooh had been the name of a swan? Now you do.