KENSINGTON, MD — Cyrus Duffleman, a fictitious creation and the main character of the novel, Fight for Your Long Day, has literally escaped the pages of his book and has become a suspiciously untraceable troll on Facebook, Twitter, and other Internet social networking sites, according to those most closely associated with him.
“Duffy,” as he is affectionately known by his creator, author Alex Kudera, purports to be an underpaid, overworked educator with an insatiable appetite for fried food and flirtatious coeds. He now has fled his master with the cunning prowess of an intellectual fugitive to become an unpredictable antihero.
“He’s torn asunder and reinvented himself as a virtual monster,” Kudera said. “He’s showing up all over the Web, Facebook fan pages, wall threads, university bulletin boards. There’s even one rumor that has Duffy surfing the Net with the stolen identity of a youtube director. Supposedly he’s been spotted negotiating with some underground indie producer to cut a video.”
Duffy has especially created havoc for the independent publisher that released his book, a novel of satire and suspense, in October 2010. The publisher says Fight for Your Long Day will only stay in print if “Duffy can be caught and made to understand his limitations.”
“The character is completely out of our control, and potentially dangerous to my company’s bottom line,” said Dan Cafaro, founder and publisher of Atticus Books, the small press that agreed to publish Kudera’s debut novel. “My attorney is at his wit’s end and says that Duffy’s bizarre online behavior may prove that Atticus is too careless to represent – what a load of bull, eh? With all this brouhaha surrounding Duffy’s whereabouts, we’ll no doubt need to find another lawyer to protect our assets.”
Michael Dylan Welch, editor of the book in which Duffy appears, is exasperated by the circumstances.
“To be frank, he’s become quite a nuisance,” Welch said of the portly adjunct professor from Philadelphia. “We’re doing the best we can to rein in his so-called ‘coming out’ party. But Duffy has told me that his liberation from the staid world of print has him reflecting on the choices he’s made in life and all that he could be doing in the world of animation.”
“I can’t work under these conditions,” Welch added.
One explanation of Duffy’s materialization, though not substantiated, is that he became unstoppable when he caught whiff of the shenanigans pulled off by the film characters portrayed in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. From that moment, Kudera said he lost hold of him.
“It was in the much later stages of the character’s development — after the manuscript was accepted for publication, in fact, that Duffy’s persona began to unravel,” said Kudera, who teaches literature and writing at Clemson University in South Carolina.
One note of great concern for Kudera is the potential structural damages that Duffy could suffer from the trauma of first “escaping and taking pleasure in the illusionary concept of freedom ” — and then being “retained and shackled by the constraints of bound and printed matter.”
“I’ve done everything to warn Duffy of these dangers,” Kudera said. I’ve left numerous messages on his Facebook wall, insisting that his metafictional shenanigans have played out badly too many times before, but he never returns a word. You’d think he didn’t exist until I return the next day and see all his new friends and activity—mafia wars, virtual booze, and his ‘poke’-ing is out of control. And then just yesterday, Cyrus Duffleman defriended me!”
It may seem to the uninitiated that Duffy is attention-starved, but he calls his cyber journey “adventurous” and says he holds this trait with many larger-than-life characters. He recently held a conversation with Atticus Finch on the Atticus Finch Facebook fan page – and called the Harper Lee creation an icon and inspiration “to all living fictional characters who’ve broken free of the cloth binding that imprisons them.”
“Duffy is clearly imitating the actions of Tom Baxter, the ingenuous archaeologist in Woody Allen’s movie,” Kudera said. “As Baxter did on the silver screen, so has Duffy, suddenly looking out from the pages of the book, breaking from the plot, and stepping through to the real world. I’m not sure there is a recourse for that. I feel absolutely Operation Shylocked.”
Cafaro says he believes Kudera’s bafflement with the “twists and turns of Duff’s psychological break” is sincere. But he also thinks Kudera, whom he described as an astute and clever writer, is “well capable of finding a satisfying resolution.”
Duffy, however, has begun to wear as thin on the publisher’s patience as his hairline.
“When I signed Alex to the book contract, I realized he was imaginative and funny, but I had no idea what we’d be up against with this Duffy character,” Cafaro said. “Hopefully, Alex has the charisma to coax this unwieldy lunatic back into the book, so we can put this embarrassing insanity behind us. In the best of all possible worlds — this one and Duffy’s, it would be ideal if we can simply reunite the character to the book’s pages and continue with the ongoing marketing and publicity campaign, as planned.”