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This email was written to Justin Benton in December 2009 in response to his essay “How to Disappear Completely.”

 

Dear Justin,

Again, thanks for your essay.  I’d been toying with the idea of deactivating my account, and your essay was the tipping point.  Since deactivating, I’ve gone through all sorts of emotions and experienced various things.  I figured I’d give myself permission to email you.

FB is not healthy for people like me.  I joined for the wrong reason–purely self-promotional.  To sell my book.  And I went at it aggressively.  (I had something like 620 friends at the time of my deactivation.)  The more desperate I felt about my book sales and thus my prospects for selling my novel, the more actively I campaigned for friends.  Then I felt bad because people were posting about their lives–genuine, heartfelt–and all I posted were articles I’d written and good reviews, etc.  So I tried to throw in a few pithy and/or heartfelt posts now and then, or comment on other people’s posts–to disguise my blatant self-promotion.  And I just found myself thinking way too much about what to post or what to comment–instead of what story I might write.

I found that FB was a black hole of massive time suckage.  The voyeuristic writer could spend hours poking around on FB.  I knew too much about people–all of this useless information rattling around.  And some of it was very personal information–but I knew it in an impersonal and artificial way: a fellow writer’s mother committed suicide; the “friends” who went into labor and gave birth; mothers in distress with toddlers and newborns, lonely and seeking empathetic listeners, or complaining about the monotonous parenting drill; a “friend’s” relationship drama, which kept me guessing as to his latest love triangles; a “friend’s” struggle to stay off booze; another “friend’s” attempt to appear sexy and hip, posting sad, provocative photos of herself.

FB enhanced my misanthropic tendencies.  The “friend” getting her MFA at a well known college, trying to sound wise and hip and cool, posting photos of fat people at Wal Mart, all to further enhance her hip persona. The “friend” who referred to her children as “kidlets” in every one of her super upbeat and therefore tremendously sad postings.  “They’re people,” I wanted to tell her.  “Don’t demean them with that awful term that’s meant to be cute, but in the end reveals your own desperation.”  It seemed as if everyone was shouting, “Look at me!  Look at me!  I’m important!  I’m somebody!”  And it just got so noisy.  And it made me sad.  And then I was doing it as well.

The only temptation to go back on FB has come when I’ve received good news about my book.  I want to post it, in a gloat post, so that others can comment, and slap my back. But when I think about the glut of other writers self-promoting on FB, I realize that it probably doesn’t help that much with book sales.  In fact, with some of the more well-known writers I’ve friended on FB, by reading their daily postings and twitterings, I’ve found myself less likely to want to read their work.  I won’t name any names–but there’s something off-putting about needing constant attention, and the mystery of a writer is killed.

I did have two people contact me in a where are you email, why’d you quit FB because I enjoyed reading links to your articles, etc., and I directed them to you essay and my comments as an explanation–but so far, that’s it.

With two young children and a busy schedule, I have minimal time to read and write–and quitting FB has been liberating, allowing me to refocus.  I’m relieved.  I feel tugs of FB withdrawal, but I remind myself that just because I don’t post about my book receiving an accolade, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count or didn’t happen.  The tree did fall in the forest, and I don’t have to direct every one’s attention to it.

I hope I have the capacity to stay off FB.

Thanks.

Best,

Victoria Patterson

 

 

I’m sorry for the mass mailing. I’m a terrible correspondent, as I’ve explained in greater or lesser tones of contrition for most of my life. My parents always tried to encourage me to write thank you cards when I was a child, and I’d scribble some half-baked gratitude, something about how fabulous my new old lady briefs monogrammed with the days of the week were, and then forget to mail it. Or not bother to stamp it, which is even more pathetic, somehow. It’s like the hard part was done and I got hung up on the minutiae. A stroke of contrariness? I don’t know. Sue me.

I never call anyone because I’ve nurtured a hate-hate relationship with the phone my entire life; imagine the curse of the ubiquitous cell phone for someone like me? It’s possible that I was the only teenager in the universe who avoided the phone–actually screened my calls. Hated the phone as a teenager; skillfully navigate it now by ignoring its ubiquity.

Anyway, back to the reason for this letter. Since Facebook has made the sphere of private versus the public such a complicated place, and the internet makes it possible to find anyone anywhere unless you’ve doctored yourself a little alternate identity and travel documents, I thought that it might be time to address my own personal privacy settings. Imagine, if you will, a shield of preferences circling me like a force field of ultimate power.

You girls I knew in Junior High School make me a little nervous, to be perfectly honest. I wasn’t sure how to be your friends back then; I was convinced that well-put-together girls in pressed Levi’s and Polo shirts scorned the very earth I walked on. Sure, I won “Class Clown” two years running–but I remain convinced that it was because I was the spastic heartbroken girl who didn’t know how to be well-put-together so was funny instead. I look sad in both my yearbook pictures when I was photographed with my male clown counterparts, two Frowny Clown Portraits adorning the Thrift Stores of History.

So, junior high school girlfriends, you get a free pass but only as long as you don’t remind me that I’m still that spastic poorly manicured goombah who can’t be bothered to find clothes which fit. Pointing and laughing are strictly forbidden. Otherwise, I’ll drag you off into the purgatory of the HIDE button.

Junior High Boys on the other hand are welcome. You guys were awesome in your dorky ways; sure, you didn’t want to date me because I didn’t have boobs until, well, ever, but you were a fun crew who laughed at my jokes. And there wasn’t a mean bone in your body–not that you shared with me anyway–and I hear many of you are still friends after all these years! That’s reassuring, somehow. You guys are alright.

Late adolescence and early adulthood harbors a strange melange of friends. There are many of you who I miss, even though I don’t write and I never call. Be assured that you’re still on my list of Friends and not Acquaintances. Yeah, it’s true. I forget that we haven’t talked in almost twenty years. I assume, completely irrationally, that we’ll hook up for coffee soon and talk just like we did in the past. I was actually surprised when one of you wrote me to say that we hadn’t seen each other in forever and wow, things have changed. Have they really? I can’t tell from inside my force field. I thought things were exactly the same as they always were, at least between us. Shows you how subjective it is here behind my wall of impenetrability.

I haven’t avoided many of you–note the “lousy correspondent” disclaimer–but there are some of you I have. How can you tell from my silence, since my silence is all-encompassing, whether we’re still friends or whether I’ve dodged you like a virulent strain of flesh-eating streptococcus? That is a perfectly reasonable question. Check the history files. Did you A) betray my trust B) play Machiavellian mind games with me, making me question my very sanity or C) both? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, put yourself in the “Avoided Like Plague” pile. There aren’t many of you, but you’re out there.

The Ex-Boyfriend privacy settings are more complicated. They also run to the “Sure, look me up sometime,” to the “Jesus, seriously, dude. If you were the last man on earth I’d commit Seppuku.” Again, if you’re unsure of where you are on the spectrum, review the history. Were we A) relatively unharmed by our dalliances? B) Total goofballs but not really impacted by anything resembling “commitment” or “longevity?”  or C) Cheerfully involved until we kind of just weren’t any more and then stumbled into the next thing? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, the force field will welcome you through.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself keeping company with this series of identifying characteristics, you can place yourself in the “Last Man = Seppuku” pile. Were you A) Formed in Lucifer’s loins? B) A sociopath? C) Abusive, ranging from mental anguish to a broken collarbone? You guys not only get the booby prize but the award for Most Toxic Relationships. I have avoided Facebook in no small measure because of you gentlemen, and I hope you can tell from my specific tone of silence (and my force field) that I have a mile-thick wall around me that reads “FOOL ME ONCE.” Also, restraining orders and very large friends.

But the rest of you–sure. Look me up, I guess. I mean, it’s sort of like going to the zoo to stare at the animals. Interesting for a minute until you realize that the animals are just biding their time until they can turn on their master….wait. No, that’s a lousy analogy.

Let me start again:

Sure, look me up, I guess. I mean, it’s sort of like reading the gossip pages and relishing the dirt you pick up about familiar strangers…

Damn. That’s not right either.

Okay. I’m just trying to say that I love many of you even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time. Except for those of you I don’t love. And I wish you could tell the difference, but because of my self-imposed silence, I guess you can’t tell who’s who. So maybe this new-fangled Force Field of Ultimate Power will make it easier for everyone to sort out who goes in what column.

Thanks, and I’d say “We’ll talk soon,” except we both know that’s not true. But I love you.*

Cheers, Quenby


*Unless I don’t, of course.

Remember when we listened to punk rock, rolled the windows down and drove to the gas station with the blue roof because a guy there was known for selling cigarettes to kids like us and we figured this was a pretty good deal? When he stopped working there, we never even asked what happened. He was just gone and we found an unsupervised cigarette machine in a coffee shop to replace him. It was in full view of the public, cops sitting at the bar and all, but no one was going to turn around and ask you for ID if you had the balls to just walk up and buy a pack.

Remember how that trip to the gas station took forever, like what the hell could we be doing? Well, we had to stop at so-and-so’s house and pop in to say hi to her mom so we wouldn’t look suspicious like that one time she knew I was going to be getting a ring, and she asked why I wasn’t wearing it and I said, “I let him keep it because we were going to, um, I mean, it was too big and it has to be re-sized, and I didn’t want to lose it.” What I almost said was “We were going to get high, and I was afraid I’d lose it.” It was my first time, and I was sure I couldn’t be trusted. We ended up just sitting in that coffee shop all day, staring at our cups. I tried so many times to explain something, some insight offering itself from the folds of my slow motion rush, and I’d start but my mouth couldn’t keep up, and I’d flounder till finally I muttered, “Ah, fuckit.” And that became my signature phrase for the next year. This is the sound of me falling short.

Remember when we left school to go swimming in some lake somewhere? We dragged our legs, thick with drugs, through muddy water and contemplated whether we could swim to the other side. We got water in our mouths. It was the first time I heard the word brackish, and it was delightful the way you said it. Brackish. We swam in our clothes so we wouldn’t have to go naked, but then there we were hiding behind the car putting on god knows what, a t-shirt I guess, and a towel maybe, something from the trunk of this boy’s car. I told myself to remember the image of you with the sweet purple smoke swirling around your face, the light sifting in through the barn window as you sat back on this old couch and someone finally declared, “It’s burnt.” I told myself to remember how goddamned beautiful you were because it couldn’t have lasted forever, but I had this one taste of it, this one photo in my mind — you sealed in the amber of time.

Remember when I was laying on your bed in my panties, and you sang that stupid song about me being on your bed in my panties? I couldn’t figure out why it was such a big deal, and I just felt lucky that you weren’t laughing or anything, and I felt like a bit of an asshole for smoking your pot but I realize now that you got the better end of that deal since you kept the remainder of the bag, too.

Remember when my eyes felt like sugar water? And my teeth, sugar cubes? And my heart, sugar, too?

Remember when we went to the park and climbed on the jungle gym and hung upside down by our knees and wondered what THC stood for anyway? It sounded like a college, like some kind of private school, like The Hard College. We talked about how girls only wanted to date shitty guys, and how good guys always get stuck being just friends, and then one night you kissed me on the sidewalk. It was an ambush of teenage hormones and then there were the long rambling love letters written in pencil, and the phone calls where you told me about your dreams until it got to be too much and I knew you were making things up.

Remember when I believed there were things good girls didn’t do? Remember when I was in love with you and tried that weird role reversal of deer perusing the hunter? And remember when you finally took me up on it and I shrank back from your hands because no one told me that was part of the deal?  Remember when the best thing I could think of was you thinking of me? Remember when I would whisper your name until I fell asleep? Do you remember me?

Long overdue correspondence from yours truly.

___________________

 

Dear Quarterflash,

Remember me? It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? About thirty years, actually, since I bought your self-titled cassette after hearing your moody gem, “Harden My Heart” on the radio.  I was 12 years old, and having only a limited personal music collection, I listened to your tape nonstop, removing it from my poor excuse for a boom box only long enough to turn it over and pop it back in.  In my opinion, it was filler-free.  Each synthy cut stood out as an unappreciated classic. I took you to bed with me each night, and in the morning, you delivered papers with me.   Remember?

Then one day the tape wore so thin that it became unplayable. Instead of replacing your album with a newer copy, I bought the new album by Pink Floyd called, “The Wall.” A lot of things changed after that.  Do you guys know them?  They seem pretty moody too, between you and me.

Just so you know, I’ve always treasured those nights lying in bed together, the massive Koss headphones wafting your smooth jazz into my mind, pretending that singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross had written these songs for me. I imagined that it was after a tempestuous argument between us that she sat down and penned the fist pumper, “Find Another Fool.”  In my Quarterflash fantasy world, she always took my 12 year old ass back. By the way, it never struck me as odd that Rindy would sing a romantic song to another girl (“Valerie”).  I just figured that the song was simply… well, I have no idea how I missed that, now that I think of it.

I write you now because I must come clean and admit that I have denied you several times. In fact, I have spent most of my life not mentioning to anyone that I owned your album, let alone that I obsessed over it. I listen to lots of death metal now. Have you ever heard of Emperor? They’re really good. Check them out- they sing a great song called “I Am the Black Wizards” that I listen to when I go running.  Were any of your songs Satanic?  A lot of theirs are.  But unlike you, they don’t have a saxophone player.  So you’ve got that on them.

Anyway, although I haven’t listened to you in three decades, and though I am now a tattooed, jaded misanthrope, I will always secretly be your biggest fan. Could you please send me an autographed picture of Rindy? And please make it to, “My boyfriend Joe, who is the coolest kid at May Street School and the best boyfriend ever, love always, Rindy.”

Thanks.

And sorry.

Joe

___________________

 

Dear Jay Leno-

My name is Joe and I grew up in Worcester, not far from where you grew up. Hey, I know you’re super busy and I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I was just wondering- how much money do you really need?

Thanks and have a great rest of the day,

Joe

 

___________________

 

Dear Copenhagen (Denmark) Marriott-

I just wanted to send a long overdue letter of thanks to your staff for not telling on me when I stayed at your hotel five years ago and precipitated that rather anxious morning for a lot of people.   As you can see, I’m still alive!  Is there a word for “lol” in Danish? If so, I’d use it right now! lol

Thank you for calling my room so many times that morning to make sure I was OK, even though I did not pick up the phone.  I don’t know which attempt finally worked, but I’m deeply appreciative that you stuck with it until I finally answered. Because of your Danish stick-tuitiveness, I made it into work by 1 p.m., thus avoiding a dreaded no call/no show at the office that day. Can you imagine what people would have thought?

I also appreciate you not sending a letter to my company explaining how and why you kicked my door in. As a testament to your customer-friendly attitude, you didn’t even charge me for the repairs. In fact, had you not called me to confirm that the repairs to the door, post-kicking-in, were to my satisfaction, I might never have known of all your hard work.

I hope you enjoyed my gift this past summer and that it came as a nice surprise when you learned that while in your city for a whole week last July, I stayed at another hotel.

Tak!

Joe Daly

 

___________________

 

Dear American Lung Association-

What’s going on? How are everyone’s lungs today? Hah hah… Hey, I was just wondering what I might be able to do here on my end to get you to stop bothering me. Any suggestions or direction you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

By way of background, my friend did some sort of cycling event a couple years ago. He agreed to raise money for you and you in turn, gave him a snazzy-looking web page where he could direct all of his friends to donate money. It was so cool! His name is Brian, by the way. Ring a bell? There was a little graph that showed how much he had raised and what his goal was. I think it was a giant lung.  Well played, ALA!  What will you guys come up with next??

Anyway, I donated some money, mainly to help him out, but I do agree that lungs are important. I use both of mine everyday! I guess lungs are to me what phones are to you, because since I gave you money, you guys now call me what seems like everyday, asking how much more I would like to donate to your organization.  I sort of feel bad for reminding a recent caller that I subscribe to the “Do Not Call” registry of the United States of America.  I must have caught them after a dentist appointment or something because that caller became irate and angrily advised that charities are exempt from that list and then again inquired how much would I like to give?

Sometimes I don’t pick up, but then you don’t leave a message, so I figure that it can’t be too important, right? I assume that if the doors were about to close for lack of funding, you guys might leave a message at the beep.  And then you send me those emails every couple of weeks, asking me to join your fight by sending you money. But I’m a lover, not a fighter! Can’t I just send some love your way?  Make lungs, not war!  You can use that last one if you want.

So it would mean a lot to me if you could please, please, please stop making me view charity as a sucky and heartless game for relentless people with no souls.  I’m going to continue to ignore your calls and mark your emails as spam but please don’t take it personally! My lungs and I still love you- we just feel like our relationship has sort of, well, run its course, yanno?

Thanks and keep those lungs clean!

Joe

Dear Texas,

Georgia O’Keeffe, the vaunted painter of periwinkle vaginas, once remarked of your landscape, “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.” I read O’Keeffe’s words and, Texas, I think she’s got you pegged.

From your Gulf Prairies and Marshes, that moist welcome mat for countless pirates, tycoons and explorers before me—to your tangled, pubic Pineywoods and fetid Savannah, I ache for you, Texas. Your Rolling Plains, your Edwards Plateau…Mmmmm. I can virtually run my finger down your vast belly. Although you are awfully big and grotesquely frustrating to get a handle on.

Why is this, Texas? Perhaps it’s because you’re always changing. At one moment, you’re a beacon of warmth and naked, Bacchanalian invitation a la Laredo Boys Town 1998, the next, you’re like the Summit in Houston. How so? Let me explain.

Like the Summit, sometimes, you are an arena filled with hope, Van Halen with David Lee Roth. You evoke nostalgia for Akeem Olajuwon dunking over The Admiral and you inspire memories of being eleven years old and chased on a scooter by Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on The Block after pelting him and his bandmates with rocks for stealing our would-be girlfriends,

Other times, you become frustratingly similar to Joel Osteen’s faith-toaster, Lakewood Church, a veritable Six Flags Over Jesus where the destitute stumble in to put money in your capacious G-string, with only a hint of a lap dance and no champagne room in sight. I’d pick up my sling shot and my rocks again, but I fear Mr. Osteen may be equipped with more than a scooter and a entourage far more intimidating than Jordon, Jonathan, Joey and Danny.

Texas, you just don’t seem to know what you want to be. Do you want to be the bisexual travesty of nature Tila Tequila of Houston, or the homosexual travesty of nature Rick Perry, of the Governor’s mansion? You’ve gotta let me know. Do you want to embrace Dallas and Ft. Worth, the bloated, silicon titties of your Cross Timbers or showcase your fertile NASA mind? You know you’re capable of sending men and women into low-Earth orbit, then bringing them down with a septic splash after an exhausting interstellar session of toggle and yaw. You did say you were doing post-graduate work in aerospace engineering at nights. Was that all a lie, Texas? Or maybe you said it was medical school. Texas, what’s it going to be? Sometimes I feel like I’m sucking from the proverbial hind tit, here, Texas, a dying lone star, a black dwarf, like Emmanuel Lewis, without the cute cardigan.

Sometimes with you, I feel like a 10-year old boy, road tripping to Amarillo with my parents in 1984 to see Twisted Sister at the Civic Center. My teeth sweat with anticipation. “Ama-fucking-rillo!!” shouts Dee Snider. Then cops, then show’s over, with nary a chord struck. Cock tease. I protest in agony that we’re not gonna take it, but in the end, I always do.

Maybe this is why I’ve left you so many times. Well, I’m back now, Texas. And I’m hoping you’ll have me, if not forever, then for just this one night

I’ll finish up with another line for you from Georgia O’Keeffe: “There was quiet and an untouched feel to the country (that’s you Texas) and I could work as I pleased.” You and Georgia must have come across each other much earlier, because I certainly don’t get an “untouched feel” with you, but I do always believe that I can work with you pretty much as I please. It may seem crazy that I’m starting and ending these sappy scrawls to you by channeling Georgia O’Keeffe. But it really all comes down to art. And while Georgia creates her art with easels and acrylic, brushes and canvas and you create your art with an ill-fitting thong and a pole at the Yellow Rose Gentleman’s Club on weekdays from noon to four, you both serve as infinite inspiration for me. Well, that and of course, you’re both named after States.

Cautiously,

Tyler

Dear America,

Baby, I love your particular strain of capitalism, how its muscular hand caresses every part of me, everything in sight –I have always loved a firm hand, Baby.I love how it has turned everything into a product, one that looks suspiciously like my own body. I love how this has made me hate myself, and hawk myself, and fostered an extreme poverty of imagination in my young self, and in everyone I have ever known.

In 2008 I began writing letters to famous people because I didn’t have many other things to do at the time.

Some of these letter appeared on my now defunct MySpace blog, and several were used in my final stand-up attempt in early 2009.

Not one of my letters garnered a response.


An Unanswered Letter to Nigel Waterson (MP for Eastbourne)

Dear Nigel (forgive me for dispensing with the formality of including your surname, but I’m sure you must know it by now and I wish this correspondence to be brief),

This letter regards the floral decorations of our great and glorious Eastbourne. I visited the town itself today (for I reside a short train ride away myself) and it really doesn’t look like a town gearing up for victory in the upcoming Sussex in Bloom contest.

In fact things are looking pretty grim— almost as though the town isn’t even aware that such a contest is moving towards us at quite intense speed.

I would like to know exactly what our tactics are for this proud and prestigious botanical bout— even Bexhill-on-Sea has a few cheery hanging baskets adorning it’s otherwise pitiful high street!

If we act fast it will not be too late! With our buds barely blooming, let alone arranged in aesthetically pleasing formations, we have little time, but surely we can throw something together?! I have no ideas myself— I am far from an expert in the field, merely an enthusiastic fan of foliage.

We could of course cheat and use plastic plants; but we must ask ourselves if we really want to be the Michael Jackson of the contemporary flower exhibiting world… I don’t think you need me to tell you that we most certainly do not want that foul infamy!

I wish to see victory (and restoration of local pride) before the imminent death of my poor, world-weary goldfish Colonel Kurtz (named, of course, after Marlon Brando’s character in The Godfather).

Whilst we’re on the subject of my goldfish, I wonder if you can assist me in matters of goldfish behaviour. I do not know whether you are anything of an ichthyologist, but I feel it’s worth a shot.

Kurtz is a very mischievous fish. I often tell him that if he doesn’t behave he shall end up sleeping with the fishes, but this only serves to make him more frisky and excitable than before. Have you any idea how I can restore discipline and order to my fishbowl?

Thank you for your time,

James D. Irwin


An Unanswered Letter to Bruce Willis (Voice of Mikey in ‘Look Who’s Talking’)

Dear Mr Willis,

I am not altogether convinced this address is genuine, but if it is, I have a number of questions.

Firstly, I dined at Planet Hollywood last year. Whilst it was great to see the motorcycle/chopper from Pulp Fiction (I do a great impersonation of that entire scene, playing both your role and the part of Fabienne) and although I was also thrilled to find that our hands are exactly the same size, one question could not escape my mind:

Planet Hollywood was set up after the immense (and richly deserved) success of the seminal action film Die Hard, in which you played the main character. Why then, did you not name the restaurant Dine Hard? And since the world has become full of left-wing lunatic hippies who think that meat is murder, the avenue for a vegan outlet named Dine Hard: With a Vegetable was wide open! Just a thought…

Also: I have a suggestion for a new condiment, also along the Die Hard theme. Salt and Pepper are as old hat as Salt-N-Pepa, why not spice things up with a little Yipee-Cayenne-Pepper? The place is film themed, right?!

Also, is The Sixth Sense a sequel to The Fifth Element? Because they are quite similar (i.e. you are in them) but they are also different (i.e. they are clearly two very different films).

Finally, why is the food at Planet Hollywood so expensive? Please don’t tell me it’s because the film roles are drying up, because I do enjoy your films.

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

P.S. Who would win in a fight between John McClane and Harry Callahan? I mean ’70s era Callahan, because he looks a bit frailer in that last film with Jim Carrey and the exploding remote control car (something sadly lacking in the Die Hard films).

OR

Would you join forces and take on Chuck Norris in a No Rules Cage Fight? I would be willing to pay anything between $6-12 to see it happen.


An Unanswered Letter to Brad Pitt (Star of Seven and Years in Tibet)

Dear Mr Pitt,

I haven’t seen many of your films, but having seen both Seven and Fight Club, as well as the trailers for Ocean’s 11-13, I’m confident you have the talent, gravitas and cache for my latest foray into the world of cinematic excellence.

Admittedly my plans rely heavily on you either knowing somebody with the surname Pendulum, or adopting a Rwandan child and calling it Pendulum.

The film itself would be a screen adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe classic.

Imagine the bill Brad… PITT and PENDULUM in… THE RAVEN! Catchy, don’t you think?!

The tickets practically sell themselves!

Question: Poe lived in Baltimore. Baltimore’s NFL team is called The Ravens. Is this a coincidence?

I would like to see more of your films before I write the script, what would you recommend? Also, you might want some say in your supporting cast, but I’d very much like to cast Morgan Freeman as the narrator. Isn’t his voice wonderful? It’s the audio equivalent of taking a bath in hot chocolate whilst Kiera Knightley massages your thorax with warm, fresh honey…

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

P.S. I want you to reply as hard as you can.

P.P.S. That was a Fight Club reference.

An Unanswered Letter to George Clooney (Nepresso Coffee Spokesperson)

Dear Mr Clooney,

Is there going to be another Ocean’s film?

I can’t help but think the number of Ocean’s films is rising rapidly— perhaps too rapidly. I wonder then, if this is a subtle message regarding global warming?

Perhaps your next Ocean’s film could directly address this phenomena… Ocean’s Rising.

The plot would see another casino being built— a gaudy super-casino, which tips the world’s C02 omissions over the edge, triggering a huge climate change and the oceans literally rising and drowning the Netherlands and Norfolk, England.

Then you, Matt Damon and the other ones (except Brad Pitt, who’ll be busy working on an adaptation of ‘The Raven’, which is being narrated by Morgan Freeman) have to save all the Dutch people. You could save all the people in Norfolk, but Dutch girls are very pretty and the good people of Norfolk have something of a reputation for webbed feet and inbreeding…

Please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think. I don’t have anything locked down as yet, and am very open to suggestions and script alterations.

James D. Irwin


An Unanswered Letter to Matt Damon (Popular Youtube sensation)

Dear Mr Damon,

I recently treated myself to a viewing of Team America: World Police. I was saddened to see you, Matt Damon, offer the most wooden performance I have ever seen. You seemed to be little more than the director’s puppet. It was a particular shame given how great you generally are in films and stuff.

I have enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley countless times, because one can never tire of watching Jude Law being murdered.

Anyway, I digress. This letter regards your future, and presents to you a prospect I think you’ll find hard to turn down (I would say “an offer you can’t refuse”, but quoting Apocalypse Now is becoming rather cliché).

I may not be a big name in Hollywoodland (although I possess far more talent than the cast of Hollywoodland) but I have some big ideas!

As Brad Pitt and I have already begun to collaborate on a new version of Poe’s “The Raven” (to be narrated by Morgan Freeman) you’ll find your role in the new Ocean’s film much expanded. George and I haven’t come to any firm agreements yet, but as it stands the plot revolves around you and The Cloonmeister saving the Dutch from the catastrophic effects of global warming. The final scene will probably involve pretty Dutch girls with unlikely surnames “thanking” you for your heroics (this scene won’t be too graphic however, as we really need a PG-13 certificate to maximise our demographics).

Now we’ve got that out of the way we can turn our attention to the Bourne films. They’ve done remarkably well, considering you look like my friend Dan who has a dodgy heart.

You may be aware that Mr Robert Ludlum has been very inconsiderate in dying, leaving not so much as a partially finished manuscript on which to base another exhilarating caper for everyone’s favourite amnesiac action hero.

However, I have a sure-fire, whizz-bang of a hit under my belt (just ask the ladies!)

Seriously though… After all that killing he’s done and loved ones he’s lost, Jason Bourne is probably at something of a low ebb. He goes to church, confesses all of his sins and becomes a do-goody Christian— a Born Again Christian.

The film would be called ‘Bourne: Again’ and focus largely on character arc and setting up a high-octane sequel. We’d have to be very careful in making sure that the film was not mistaken for popular ABBA tribute act Bjorn Again— but perhaps they could do the soundtrack?

Towards the end of the film Jason Bourne, now the pillar of a small Mid-Western community, is attacked by a group of no-good punk kids. Attempting to open the can of kick-ass moves demonstrated in the first three films he finds he simply cannot: Jason Bourne is unable to defend himself, and as he lies beaten, bruised and bleeding in the street, he finds that God can’t always defend him.

Bourne is then forced to choose between his faith in God and his faith in beating people shitless.

This sets up the sequel we see that you, Jason Bourne, have opted to put your faith in beating people shitless and have begun to train yourself up to battle man’s greatest foe: God (played by Chuck Norris).

In a thrilling climax Bourne confronts God in an epic battle royale in which both men attempt to out-smite each other (working title: Matt Damon Versus God: The Smitening).

I can’t see any flaws, except the (slim chance) that Mr Norris is eviscerated in the upcoming Cage Fight against Bruce Willis and ’70s era Harry Callahan (tickets $6-12).

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts— and I am, of course, open to any of your suggestions. After all, you have written a multiple-MTV Movie Award winning film!

Sincerely,

James D. Irwin

Angelina Jolie has everything—a successful career, a romance with Brad Pitt, a crew of cute kids and millions in the bank—except for the one thing she really needs: friends. “Angelia is hungry for normal moms to be around,” a source close to the star, 34, tells Hot Stuff. “She feels like she lives in a bubble.” She’s also having trouble managing stress, says a second insider, who notes that Jolie “has been overwhelmed lately with the children. She has nannies, but she likes to do it all herself. She’s very hands-on—but she’s exhausted!”

Us Weekly, January 4, 2010

 

Dear Angelina,

I’m writing today in response to the above-referenced piece in Us Weekly’s “Hot Stuff” section, which I read as a cry for help.

Let me begin by saying that, as a “co-parent” to two lovely children, Dominick, 5, and Prudence, 3, I totally understand what you’re going through. It’s hard enough making friends with other mommies and daddies, but for someone as in the public eye as you are? Wowsers.

Put it this way: if my only option for parental peerage consisted of Katie Holmes and Victoria Beckham, I’d live in semi-isolation, too. Who wants to go to all those soccer games?

The truth is, other than your choice of profession—and the movie-star good looks—you have little in common with most Hollywood moms (Kendra and Kourtney? Kome on). Your slender physique and great beauty belie the fact that you are quite the heavy. You’ve got gravitas, girl. And that must take its toll. Between the visits to Third World countries, the U.N. Goodwill Ambassadorship, Beyond Borders, and Notes From My Travels—not to mention a slate of roles in particularly downer films (A Mighty Heart, Changeling)—you, my dear, are desperately in need of a little sunshine.

And I know just the person to provide that sunshine, not to mention the sororial bonding you need from another in-the-trenches mommy: my wife, Stephanie.

I think you and Steph would, like, totally hit it off. I mean, you have a lot in common: You both had reluctant C-sections. You both lost your mother to cancer. You’re both of French-Canadian/Native American stock. You both like Atlas Shrugged. You’re married to two of the sexiest bohunks alive, both of whom are repped by the same film agency. You’re the same age (OK, Steph is a tiny bit older than you, but she’s still way younger than Brad). And you know how you’re a political lefty but your dad voted for McCain? Same with Stephanie!

Because she lived in the East Village for fifteen years, my wife won’t be wowed by your enormous celebrity. She went to school with Taye Diggs, she has friends who write for SNL, her best friend played Marius in Les Mis on Broadway. (Plus, not to toot my own horn here, but she shares a bed with the author of Totally Killer and the senior editor of the hottest literary site on the Web). In fact, other than the time she accosted Matthew Broderick in the health food store and told him she thought he was “the best comedic actor ever” before turning tail and fleeing in shame, Steph is totally chill when it comes to hobnobbing with the rich and famous. She knows that what Us Weekly says about stars is bang-on true—they’re just like us!

What else you might like to know is that Steph is both a talented musician and a graduate student pursuing a masters in mental health counseling. So not only can she serve as a sounding board/therapist and help you manage the stress we read about in said magazine—and frankly, it’s refreshing to hear that movie stars feel stress about their children that doesn’t involve finding discreet babysitters so they can stay out all night with other movie stars—she can also belt out a killer rendition of “Wheels on the Bus.” Plus, she’s really funny, and she does a top notch Scarlett Johansson impression.

Me, you’ve obviously heard of, because of my affiliation with this fine online magazine and because I drew a standing-room-only crowd at my reading with Duke Haney at Book Soup in West Hollywood a few weeks back. What you may not know is, I’ve spent the last five years as a sort-of stay-at-home dad, eking out a living doing freelance work. Sort of like you with Kung Fu Panda, but with a much smaller paycheck. Also, I’m an astrologer, so I can do your chart (assuming the birth time on IMDB is accurate, I already know that you’re a Cancer Rising and that Venus conjuncts your Ascendant, which means, if you will forgive a technical horoscopy term, that you’re hot).


Brangelina, meet Grephanie

Brangelina, meet Grephanie

We live in New Paltz, a charming and crunchy college town in New York’s Hudson Valley. I know you spent time in Albany while filming your upcoming blockbuster Salt. Let me assure you: this ain’t Albany. Unlike the state capital, New Paltz is a place that tourists actually want to visit. Mohonk Mountain House is here—many movies have been shot there, as you are no doubt aware—plus we have Huguenot Street, the oldest residential street in North America. Brad will like that, because he’s an architecture buff.

You know who else is an architecture buff? Our son, Dominick. He just turned five, and he spent all afternoon reading A Field Guide to American Houses, which American Libraries cleverly calls “the definitive field guide to American homes.” He knows the subtle differences between the Beaux Arts and Second Empire styles, and he really wants to visit Cleveland because of all the lovely historic homes there. More to the point, there’s a girl in his dance class who sort of looks like Zahara, and he really likes her. This bodes well for playdates.

As for our daughter, Prudence and Shiloh are the same age, and they both have awesome names. (Let me take a moment to compliment you on your good taste in that department. Maddox, Zahara, Pax, Shiloh, Knox, Vivienne…not a clunker in the bunch. No Apples, no Moseses, and no Olives, because Olive Pitt doesn’t quite work.) If Shiloh enjoys riding tricycles, belting out tunes at the top of her lungs, and playing non-competitive games of hide-and-seek, she’ll get along with Prue just fine.

While it’s true that New Paltz is quite a distance from Los Angeles, New Orleans, Paris, Berlin, Phnom Penh, Namibia, and other places where we think you might maintain residences—and, while we’re on the topic, might I suggest that, exhilarating as globe-trotting must be, especially under the imprimatur of the United Nations, it might be easier for both you and your children to make friends if you commit to a single locale—we are right down the road from Woodstock, so it’s not like we’ve never seen celebrities before (although so many of our citizens support a mandatory death sentence for television that it’s entirely possible that you could accompany Stephanie to Bacchus for a few Fin du Mondes and TMZ would never be the wiser).

Another thing: Stephanie already has a really great circle of mommy friends. These are ladies you would really dig. Liz, who has four kids—including twins, like you—is really funny and down to earth and has great taste in music. S.L., like you, has lots of tattoos and tastes that run Goth; I don’t think she’d wear her husband’s blood in a vial around her neck, but the idea wouldn’t repulse her. And check this: Elizabeth and her husband Tim have two adoptive children from Guatemala, and next month, they’re getting two more, this time from Rwanda. That’s right—Rwanda. Plus, Tim’s car runs on vegetable oil. I bet even Leo’s car doesn’t do that.

Oh, and there’s this. I’ve heard the rumors that you and Brad occasionally run into conflict because from time to time you like to—how shall I put this?—put the “XX” in sex. (I’m guessing that’s what you meant when you told Das Neue last week that you “doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship.”) Assuming these rumors are legit, and not a feeble attempt by your Foxfire co-star Jenny Shimizu to resuscitate her career, let’s just say that in these parts, we tend to be quite liberal when it comes to that sort of thing. We’re down with bisexual OPP.

True, Stephanie and I have never broached the subject. But say you guys were hanging out, availing yourselves of the drink specials while grooving to the Big Shoe show at Oasis, and one thing led to another…who am I to deny the happiness of the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency?

The point is, you’ll find my wife and I very supportive of your lifestyle choices. Like, we think it’s really cool that you guys won’t get married until marriage is a universal right. In fact, one of the reasons we moved to New Paltz is because our then-mayor, Jason West, performed gay marriages at Village Hall. Like I said, this ain’t Albany.

If you’d rather not relocate from sunny Los Angeles to a place where the winters are cold and slush-filled and the Subarus outnumber the Porsches just to cultivate a friendship with a woman you met by reading a letter her husband wrote on a Web site whose influence, while mighty, was insufficient to convince Janeane Garofalo to boink a handsome and debonair Aussie fifteen years her junior…hey, I understand. I won’t take it personally. But if you’re willing to give it a shot, have “your people” call “our people,” and let’s set up a playdate. You won’t be disappointed.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Best regards,

Greg Olear

PS

We have a jumpy castle.

Dear Real Bigfoot,

I super love you. I want to hug you. You might not like that. I wonder what you smell like. Like a wild animal, I guess, but you’re not a wild animal. You’re different. You’re a freak of nature, and I mean that in the most outstanding way. You are electric and organic and everything the rest of us wish we were. You are what e.e. cummings wanted us to be. You are everything we’ve lost touch with: Nature, body hair, animal instincts, and the sheer size of life. You’re a hunter-gatherer, baby, and that is hot.

When I saw the photo of you last week, I was skeptical, of course. All photos of Bigfoot or other legendary creatures are subject to skepticism because, as reasonable, mature, working adults, we can’t be always buying into fantastical stories then finding out we were duped. The whole Santa Claus thing was embarrassing enough. Do you know about Santa Claus? Do you even concern yourself with this stuff?

Anyway, I was skeptical, but the thought of you stirred such strong feelings in me that I felt compelled to write to you. I hope you can read, or I hope someone reads this to you, maybe some very lucky liaison of the hairless world who brings you snacks and cookies in the woods and shows you how to read and stuff. But you are such a savvy woodsman you probably don’t need that kind of help, and in fact, the cookies would be an interference with your natural, healthy diet. Look how strong you are, how tall, how stealthy and smart, how luxurious your hair! You don’t need anything from us soft, bald, squishy, oil-addicted, technology-dependent folks, and that is what I love about you. I dare say that’s what all of us love about you — you are so not us in all the right ways, even if you are exactly like us in some other ways.

My first instinct was to say that photo was a hoax because people are always claiming to have seen, found, caught or even killed you. I know, it’s awful. Last year, some guys even produced a frozen corpse, which I was so grateful to discover was only an ape suit, and not even a very good one. I was completely offended by that hoax and didn’t want to be fooled again, but I can’t help it. I want to believe in you more than I want to believe in God.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be calling you “Bigfoot.” It’s like if you called me “Squishythighs.” I wouldn’t appreciate that very much. I’d like to give you a name. I’d like to call you Francis. It’s a good name, gender neutral, and has a bit of a rock-n-roll twist while being quite classic. If you don’t like it, I can call you something else, OK? But for now, I’m going to call you Francis.

So, Francis, sometimes I day dream about the life you must live. So many of us supposedly civilized people have drifted so far away from what matters most — and I’m not just talking about family and love — we’ve lost touch with our real survival needs, our health, our basic nature. I’m talking about eating, breeding and staying warm. You’ve got that down.

Is your life hard? Do you like it? Is it worth living? The rest of us tend to think we couldn’t cope with life if we didn’t have our houses, our jobs, and our cars, and yet those are the very things that make our lives so complicated. I don’t want to lose my job, and yet, in any given day, the hardest thing I have to deal with is most likely related to my job. Most of us are in codependent relationships with our jobs, wanting to be free of the responsibilities of work, yet feeling that without the money we earn from work, we couldn’t be happy. What kind of sense does that make?

I wish you could tell me about your days, Francis. Do you spend a lot of time looking for food? Do you cook your food over a fire, admiring the warm glow on the faces of your family? Or do you eat it alone, satisfied by your natural ability to provide for yourself? Are you tired at the end of the day? Do you wonder if there is more to life than eating, breeding and staying warm? I wonder, too.

I love you, Francis Bigfoot.

Sincerely,
Mary Squishythighs

This isn’t actually a post from Melbourne. I’m writing it from a sparse and ambiently-lit hotel room in Christchurch. So that little ‘Melbourne, Australia’ tagline is a lie.

But that’s 2009 for you.

Dear 2009,

Fuck you. And fuck the horse you rode in on.

There’s less than a month to go until you’re gone, 2009, and let me tell you, I’m really looking forward to your inevitable demise.

Maybe you think I’m being unkind. Maybe you think I’m being unfair. Maybe you think I’m letting my emotions get the better of me. Well, frankly, I don’t care what you think any more. Not. One. Bit.

I had such high, high hopes for us, 2009. You kicked off at 12:00:01 on January 1 (2009) and things were already looking up. I had a new job, a new country, new friends – I had just about a new everything. Finally, I thought. Finally, everything’s gonna work out for ol’ Simon. 2009, you’re the year for me! You’ll treat me right, I’ll treat you right – I think at long last, I’ve found a year I can trust. Together, we’ll grow. Together, we’ll laugh. Sure, we’ll argue from time to time, but it will only be over silly misunderstandings, and once we’ve got it all sorted out, we’ll laugh again. We’ll go for long walks in the country, we’ll stay up late at hip and arty downtown coffee houses, we’ll watch The Sopranos together and have conversations that ripple between seriously discussing the very human monsters that dwell within us all and laughing over the quote ‘Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this!’

We were going to do so much laughing, 2009. Oh, and don’t get me started on the sex! When we first met, you were wild, and mysterious, and promisingly flexible, and I thought that maybe – just maybe – you were the year that had it all.

But no.

During your tenure the Global Financial Crisis went from push to shove to hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-shovel. Sarah Palin became a best-selling author.Transformers 2 came out.

At this juncture, 2009, I’d like to teach you a saying. A saying that has become near and dear to my heart, that has become a mantra – a creed, if you will – that I hope and pray I am man enough to live by.

There’s no need to be a dick about it.

Never quite got the hang of that one, did you, guy?

Look, I know, I’m not perfect. Believe it or not, there have been times when I, too, have been a dick about things. I can’t say I’ve handled everything that’s happened throughout the last 339 days as well as I could have. All I can say is, I always did my very, very best to make sure people understand how attractive I am.

But you, 2009. You made promises, and then you broke them. Sure, you delivered a little. At first. You tantalised, and you teased. And then you snatched it all away and then some. In a way that felt kind of like you telling me you were going to give me a million dollars, giving me the first hundred, and then eating my pet cat¹.

And as I stood, shocked and slack-jawed in the well-appointed kitchen of my imagination, watching you pick your teeth, I summoned the courage to ask: where’s my million dollars?

You mumbled something vague about the cheque being in the mail, then said you felt we needed to take some space. On your way past me, you asked ‘We cool?’ and put up your hand for a high five.

I’m not quite sure when the high five of hope left my heart, 2009. But somewhere in there, it did. I think it was the morning I woke to find you drunk and naked, face down on my couch, moaning about Jagermeister and leaving my car in a bad neighbourhood.

Subsequently I found you had relieved yourself in my dishwasher.

Which isn’t to say you were a total write-off. There were some real high points in there (Hey. TNB. Consider this a shout-out). Even the low points have helped me face things that are probably better off faced.

But really, you probably could have come through with some more on the win front, 2009. And I’m also kinda sick of growing as a person through hardships and confrontational experiences. If personal growth has to be on the menu, then, for the love of God, just make Deepak Chopra fall out of the sky and land on my house.

I feel owed. More so than usual, I mean. Yes, I’ll admit, I suffocated you a little. Yes, I could have made fewer loud references to how much I enjoyed 2003. Yes, I tried to shank you one time.

But that, and you, will all soon be in the past.

So here’s the deal. In 2010, I will happily bear my share of the load. I will face my fears, exorcise my demons, and return my friend Dean’s DVDs. I will happily humble myself at the feet of the people I have treated badly and beg for their forgiveness (OK, I don’t mean I’ll be happy as I do it, because then they might mistake the smile on my face for insincerity, and they’d get upset, and it would turn into a whole thing, and it would probably be a bad scene).

What I ask for in return – your end of the deal – will be simple. All I ask for is millions and millions of dollars. And I’ll handle the rest.

Baby.


¹ Oh, right, that’s not just a metaphor. You killed my pet cat, 2009.²

² You know who else eats pet cats, and is much better than you? The Alien Life Form from Planet Melmac. That’s right, 2009. I preferred goddamn ALF to you in your entirety.

A few years ago, an ex-professor of mine wrote to tell me that she was up for an “Excellence in Teaching” award. She asked me for a letter of recommendation. The following is that letter. Some names have been (poorly) changed. Some haven’t.

 

92819 Deadwood Creek Road
Deadwood, Oregon 97430

30th December 2002

Dear Excellence In Teaching Adjudication Committee:

School doesn’t pay—you pay school. This is not the case with Professor Linda Ross. I realized this one day while at the University of Miami, which as you might know is located in balmy Coral Gables, Florida.

I had just finished having sex with my girlfriend in her dorm room, Room 307 in the Eaton dormitory, when she, in post-coital lucidity, mentioned that I might want to investigate these odd little white notices that kept appearing under my door each day. Something about the “cancellation of classes,” if I recall correctly.

Oh, I remember it all so clearly… The underpaid minority groundskeepers buzzing all around me as I walked up the cobblestone steps to the Office of Financial Aid. Then, the well-dressed gentleman leaning over the counter, telling me that I was to vacate the premises immediately—post haste. Looking back on it, I don’t know if it was that or the single file lines of friendly UM students in green and white embroidered polo shirts so kindly helping me move my stuff out of my dorm and into my small Hyundai…but something told me it was my time to leave.

I seem to have strayed from my topic sentence, the one about Linda Ross paying—either in some sort of tangible or perhaps more metaphorical way—but sit tight, oh inaccessible teaching excellence adjudication committee; I shall return to my point shortly.

After I got the news, I went to see the only person who could console me: Linda Ross. She invited me over for dinner that night for what was to become the first of many life-altering dinners at Linda’s. By now I’ve had so many that I’ve thought of making a movie called “Dinners at Linda’s.” At this first dinner, after she had gotten me thoroughly drunk on boxed wine and jerked chicken, she showed me a painting. This painting was to change the direction of my life forever. The painting, quite simply, was a painting of her naked. It was done by an old boyfriend of hers, shortly before committing suicide. Now, I know this isn’t exactly Dead-Poets-Society-level shit, but despite my inebriation, it was a very sobering night.

Fast forward three years and now we are in the present, wherein I am broke and live on a commune in Oregon. Here Linda comes through again. She tells me, over email, that if I write her an award-winning letter, she will split the 4,000 USD prize money with me. What luck! So you see, ladies and kindly gentlemen of the Excellence in Teaching Committee, while with school I am some 40,000 USD in the hole, with Professor Linda Ross, I’m 2,000 to the green.

 

Most humbly yours in erudition,

John L Singleton


A big hello from the Fiction Editorial Team–Stacy Bierlein, Alex Chee, Shya Scanlon and yours truly.  We’re all so excited to unveil this section of the new-and-improved TNB that if we told you how thrilled we really are, you might be a little alarmed.  You might even suspect that we have too much time on our hands . . . which is so far from the truth it would be comical.  So suffice it to say that we’re really, really glad you’re here, and both proud and humbled to be on this journey through the terrain of contemporary fiction with you.

First, a little story:

This September my son Giovanni, who is three-and-a-half, started preschool.  The plan was that once he was in school, I would finally have enough hours “to myself” to get all my work done.  On that list: running Other Voices Books‘ flagship Chicago office (well, flagship may be a rather grand term for a desk in my basement), teaching at two universities, raising three small children–and then, in my nonexistent spare time blogging for both TNB and HuffPo, in addition, of course, to writing my own fiction and prepping to market my second book coming out in 2010.  Oh, I think I recall that I was also going to kick up my yoga practice this year in all my “free time,” and start reading some books that weren’t: a) fiction, b) submissions to OV Books or c) by writers I know.

Um, yeah.  Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.  Or maybe it’s just that sometimes the best laid plans are not really all they’re cracked up to be.

Giovanni had been at his first day of preschool for exactly four hours when my phone rang.  It was Brad Listi, who at that time (this now seems like a distant memory) didn’t frequently call me.  He proceeded to explain his idea for a TNB Fiction Section.  Then, to my surprise, he asked if I would consider editing it.

Absolutely anyone who knows anything about what my life looks like would tell you that I should have run for the hills.

Instead I was ecstatic.  I think within a minute and a half, I had basically signed away not only my own name in blood, but that of my longtime business partner Stacy Bierlein, Exec. Ed. of OV’s Los Angeles office, who is now my co-Editor in this venture too.  I recall buzzing around my house for the rest of the workday making lists of all the writers I couldn’t wait to let know about TNB.  When Shya and Alex joined the fray soon after, the conference calls and barrage of emails that commenced were dizzying.

If you care anything about contemporary fiction (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t), you know that review venues are shrinking by the day.  Books sections in papers and magazines are closing or radically reducing space; longtime literary magazines are losing funding and folding.  Corporate publishers are spending less on book tours and indie presses often can’t afford to spring for them to begin with.  It is harder and harder for writers to market their work in traditional ways.

This is where TNB’s Fiction Section comes in.  Our aim here is not only akin to that of all good literary magazines–to showcase some of the most vibrant writers working today–but also to help provide these writers with a vehicle to market their books.  This is why we provide links to authors’ websites and sales pages: to help directly connect the writers we love with their audience–TNB’s large, loyal and growing readership.  We also aim to provide you insights into these authors and their work that you can’t get just anywhere, which is what’s behind the “self-interview” concept.  Here, authors answer all the questions they were always afraid to answer in other interviews, or that they wished all those other guys would’ve asked instead of asking what time of the day they write and whether their desk faces west or east.  TNB’s Fiction Section is a tantalizing triple-threat on that week’s Featured Author, so that by the time you’re done, you should be as smitten as we are.

Some writers we’ll be showcasing this year include Stuart Dybek, Steve Almond, Stephen Elliott, Antonya Nelson, Jonathan Evison, Joshua Mohr, Aimee Liu and Terese Svoboda . . . among many, many more!  Please stay tuned.  New work goes up every Sunday night.

Finally, on behalf of Stacy and myself, I’d also like to say how truly fun it’s been to work with such a wide variety of writers again.  When we closed Other Voices magazine in 2007 to focus on book publishing, we gained many exciting opportunities to champion indie books out in the world, but we considerably narrowed the pool of writers we were able to champion, since Other Voices Books publishes only two titles annually.  So it has truly been a joy to be able to reach out to more writers again, to consider so much new work, and to merge our passion for book and magazine publishing here at TNB.

We hope to hear from you soon and often.  Onward, and go TNB!


Hello, friends.

As the Editor of the Nervous Breakdown’s Nonfiction sectionwhich, if you must know, is a non-paying position, so don’t start bitching if it’s riddled with spelling errorsI suppose it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to officially welcome our readers, new and old alike. What can you expect from the Nonfiction section? Well, for one thing, our stories are entirely true. In some cases, our stories will be maybe 98% true, but that seems true enough for us. What happens if we encounter a story that’s only 57% true? We’ll send them over to the Fiction section, where they’re more permissive about that sort of thing.

Why are we the first section you should read when you visit the Nervous Breakdown every morning (which of course you will, because TNB is the website of record)? Unlike the Fiction section, we won’t lie to you. Everything you’ll read at Nonfiction is true, or at least true enough that even Oprah wouldn’t make a big deal about it. Over at the Poetry section, they’re all like “Dude, we only write in iambic pentameter and that makes us special.” Who needs the attitude, am I right? And at Arts & Culture, well, we happen to think that the world (and particularly the Interwebs) already has enough impassioned essays about Robert Pattinson’s dreamy smirk, but maybe that’s just us.

Meanwhile, over at Nonfiction, you can read the best in creative nonfiction, written by some of the most talented and attractive writers working today. (Yes, believe it or not, an author’s physical appearance really does matter. Ugly authors publish ugly, ugly books.) We’ll cover everything from humorous memoir to heartbreaking confession, misadventures in self-discovery to curious tales of intrigue. If it makes us laugh or makes us cry or makes the vein on our forehead throb with any combination of dread/ anticipation/ existential epiphany, and it’s at least 98% true, we’ll probably want to feature it.

You’re probably wondering, “What does he mean by ‘we’? Is he one of those pretentious assholes who speaks of himself in the plural person?” Yes I am. But also, as much as I’d like to claim that I’m solely responsible for all the wonderful nonfiction you’ll find at TNB, I actually have a tireless staff of editorial professionals. Please give a warm welcome to the Associate Nonfiction Editors: Erika Rae, Greg Boose and Litsa Dremousis. Like all great editorial teams, they do most if not all of the heavy lifting, and I take the lion’s share of the credit. In many ways, they’re like the Joan Holloway to my Roger Sterling, but with much, much bigger racks. I would trust these people with my life. Actually, no, that’s not in any way true. I would trust them with my nonfiction. But if the bullets start flying, I don’t expect any of them to throw their bodies in front of me. Unless we start giving them all salaries, in which case they should serve as my human shield.

I suppose that’s all. Happy reading! And remember our motto over here at the Nonfiction section: If it’s not true, then it’s probably the devil’s work.

Eric Spitznagel, Editor and Big Daddy, The Nervous Breakdown Nonfiction

Most Cherished TNB Readers, From the Farthest Reaches of Outer Mongolia to Some Starbucks Wi-Fi Setup in Downtown Peoria:

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly welcome you to the finely tuned, hopped-up, fuel-injected, engine humming, all pistons popping Poetry section of The Nervous Breakdown, in glorious 3.0.

My relationship with TNB started back in the original 1.0 days. When Brad Listi first asked me to write for the site, I wasn’t quite sure how to begin. Around that time, however, a dear friend passed away. So I decided to honor his passing by taking a stroll from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, down to the ocean. Armed with only my camera, a notebook, and my dear friend’s favorite food—a corndog—in tow, I marked his passing in photos and various remembrances. That became my very first posting.

Since then, I’ve seen the site go through various incarnations. I’ve seen my own life go through various changes, as well. I’ve become a better writer, a better person; a lot of that having to do with all the wonderful folks I’ve met through TNB. As you’ll witness in either the Poetry section, Fiction section, Arts & Culture, or wherever the site takes you, we have a lot of heart, humor, and intellect to offer.

And we the forever faithful and fearless Poetry team; Associate Editors Uche Ogbuji, Jennifer Duffield White, and Milo Martin and I, as Editors, will do our best to hold the Poetry section to those high standards of quality. Each week, we’ll bring you the most thought-provoking, soul touching, mind melting poetry we can find from those farthest reaches of Outer Mongolia to that Starbucks wi-fi setup in downtown Peoria.

This week we offer you poetry from such varied talents as Iris Berry, Jackie Sheeler, Lisa Johns, Kenneth Shiffrin, Jerome Dunn, Doug Knott, and this week’s Featured Poet, Michael O’Keefe.

So wherever you are in this big old world of ours, most cherished TNB readers, strap on your seatbelts, rev your engines, shift into overdrive, and get ready to take a ride on the TNB Poetry section in grand and glorious 3.0.

 

Onward and upward,

Rich Ferguson

SACRAMENTO, CA

It’s been a week since I last saw you. Almost two months since we stopped sleeping together. Four months since you started dating someone new. Seven months since you moved out. Eight months since you shattered my picture of our future. One year since we moved into our new apartment together. Sixteen months since you photographed my sister’s wedding. Eighteen months since we returned from France. Nearly two years since I greeted you at the airport in Paris. Three years since we first moved in together. Three years and some months since you first told me you loved me. It was during the same trip when I took you to meet my parents. It had already been two months since I had first met yours. Further back in our history was our first fight: three and a half years ago (still one of my most memorable St. Patrick’s Days).  It was more than three and a half years ago that we first had sex. Almost four years since we began hanging out. And, it was nearly five years ago when we first met.

These are the events by which I have been marking my time – something I have been doing for far too long.

And well past when it should have ended. Yet I find myself sitting here at this computer with tears falling fast because I know that this is the true end of the era of you in my life. I first noticed it last week when person after person asked me when I am leaving. It is no longer the question of how long it has been since us. It is now only a question of me and what I am doing. And I realized that for a number of weeks now I have ceased to mark my time by you and have begun to mark it for the future instead.

It is less than one week until I board a plane to Frankfurt. One month from now I will be arriving in Istanbul and meeting my future roommate. Six weeks until my orientation. Two months until school begins. Six months until my return to Sacramento. From there on out it gets a little bit hazy. The one thing of which I am certain, however, is that I will be coming back to this place with all new experiences, none of which will contain any memory of you.

And when I return, my time will only be marked by when it was that I left.