T. Coraghessan Boyle is the author of twenty-three books of fiction, including, most recently, After the Plague (2001), Drop City (2003), The Inner Circle (2004), Tooth and Claw (2005), The Human Fly (2005), Talk Talk (2006), The Women (2009), Wild Child (2010), When the Killing’s Done (2011) and San Miguel (2012). He received a Ph.D. degree in Nineteenth Century British Literature from the University of Iowa in 1977, his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974, and his B.A. in English and History from SUNY Potsdam in 1968. He has been a member of the English Department at the University of Southern California since 1978, where he is a Distinguished Professor of English. His work has been translated into more than two dozen foreign languages, including German, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Korean, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Finnish, Farsi, Croatian, Turkish, Albanian, Vietnamese, Serbian and Slovene. His stories have appeared in most of the major American magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, The Paris Review, GQ, Antaeus, Granta and McSweeney’s, and he has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Prize for best novel of the year (World’s End, 1988); the PEN/Malamud Prize in the short story (T.C. Boyle Stories, 1999); and the Prix Médicis Étranger for best foreign novel in France (The Tortilla Curtain, 1997). He currently lives near Santa Barbara with his wife and three children.

Grading the last seven days in End Times culture…

Gentlemen, everyone knows the importance of your welcoming committee in Munchkinland. You’ve become nothing less than the Great OZ’s emissaries to the world, and your current advertising scheme reflects that. Maybe too well, in fact. DDB’s campaign has rehashed the Lollipop Guild welcoming routine time and time again. Always the little uniforms, the leg kicks, the state-sanctioned whimsy that put you on the map. Yet your sales have taken a turn and are now consistently beaten by Oh Henry and Clark Bar. Your friends at DDB have taken a household name and made it a punchline in the candy industry.

Clearly what works in welcoming little girls who’ve just dropped out of the sky doesn’t work in magazine copy. At some point you’ve got to ask yourself what the people of OZ are asking themselves every time they see those old fashioned ads. Is there really any shortage of whimsy in OZ? Are these little men really saying anything we don’t all hear ten times before breakfast?

Now it doesn’t make a bit of difference to me if you want to rest on your laurels and let the traditional image of the singing, dancing Lollipop Guild continue. It’s your legacy, and they’re your stockholders. If you want to just get by in your little world, then by all means keep doing that. But if you’re ready to stop singing and dancing and start beating Oh Henry, then you need a modern campaign for the modern Ozlandian, a message of comfort and nostalgia. This is an opportunity to show your customers a simpler OZ, a relaxed OZ, an OZ that doesn’t scurry around the ankles of the big people but brings them down to your level.

In the artwork here, you see a man, an Emerald City doorkeeper. He’s sitting in the grass, enjoying his Lollipop Guild novelty-size lollipop, staring at the sky. Why is the man so at ease? Not because anyone ordered him to, not because anyone sang a song. No, he’s sitting, enjoying his lollipop because he needs a break from all that. He wants to get away from the hustle and bustle, the Witches, the Flying Monkeys. He wants to feel like time is standing still. Lollipop Guild Lollipops can give him that. The copy reads, “When was the last time you stopped to smell the poppies?”

Let’s face it. People don’t enjoy lollipops because they taste good. People don’t deal with this unwieldy slab of candy because they want to have fun. You want taste, you’re gonna buy a Clark Bar. You want fun, you’re gonna buy Pop Rocks. No, the draw of the lollipop is that it gives you an excuse to slow down… Lollipops are sticky. You have to be careful with them. They’re food as a TASK in a world where adventure itself has become commonplace. People take their time finishing a lollipop, and when they do finish, they’ve regained something. They’ve regained themselves. People sit, they eat their lollipops, and they remember a time when they weren’t plodding down the yellow brick road at the beck and call of some old man behind a curtain.

You can keep running the same splashy, fun-oriented ads you’ve always run and keep getting beaten by Oh Henry and Clark Bar like you have for the past three quarters. Or you could remind your customers and your stockholders about a time when lollipops mattered in the Land of OZ. It’s up to you.

Anyway, I have another engagement. Pete can fill you in on the details. Good afternoon, Gentlemen.

In the 1970’s, the television show, All in the Family, was one of the most popular shows in the nation and a real cultural mainstay. One of the reasons for its enduring popularity (aside from great acting and interesting plot lines) was the fact that regardless of where you fell on the political spectrum, All in the Family offered a humorous portrayal of the generational divide. The show’s creators (and many viewers) felt that the show clearly illustrated Archie Bunker’s bigotry and was therefore critical, rather than condoning, of his prejudices. In reality, studies actually showed otherwise. In, True Enough, Farhad Manjoo points out a study that showed that bigots and non-bigots each found the show equally humorous but that they also, “harbored very different ideas about what was happening in the show.” The psychologists Neil Vidmar and Milton Rokeach, who conducted this study, found that people of low prejudice saw Archie Bunker as closed minded and a bigot, whereas people of high prejudice saw Archie Bunker as, “down-to-earth, honest, hardworking, predictable and kind enough to let his daughter and son in law live with him.”

Like most women whose hopes and passions reside in this business of the written word, my friend and fellow Nervous Breakdown contributor Arielle Bernstein and I have been following Franzen-gate with interest. In chat after chat, we wondered if this was merely sour grapes on the part of Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, if their criticism of gender-bias within the “literary establishment” (as represented by The New York Times) would’ve had greater heft had it come from a woman whose talents might be considered more on par with Mr. Franzen’s (like, say, Mary Gaitskill, Marilynne Robinson, or Jhumpa Lahiri). We had no real answers, but our questions lead us down the rabbit hole of gender parity in popular media.