Dear Dust,

I have a chance—a slight chance, but a legitimate one—to have my novel blurbed by a famous and successful writer.  The only problem is, this famous and successful writer—and I won’t say who he is; let’s just say you’ll know him by his codices—is only famous and successful because his book sold well, not because he can write worth a damn.  And my low opinion of him is not exactly a state secret, as I’ve discussed his egregious suckitude on certain blog posts. Question: Is it ethically cool for me to expunge the Internet record of me hating on him and then ask for his blurb?  What if I wore a cerise around my thigh as penance? Furthermore, if he did grant me a blurb, and wrote a rave review, would his celebrity endorsement help expand my audience, or would the taint of his hack name turn off my core demographic?

Yours truly,
Bobby Langdon


Dear Bobby

You’re clearly aware that the blurbing process is profoundly cynical–a gamed system of favors and debts, favoritism and self-delusion. From agents twisting arms, authors not even reading the novels they purport to describe, and buyers being duped by obsequious quotes that fail to address the actual prose–all is farce. Do blurbs help sell books? It’s debatable. Dan Brown’s “a remarkable debut” on the back of Latest Albino Conspiracy is probably worth 10k units moved. But midlist declarations of love adorning midlist titles are like exclamation points in movie reviews. Suspect in the extreme!!! Therefore, your quest to find an ethical stance within a situation entirely void of ethics is doomed to failure. This famous hack’s blurb may help earn out a chunklet of your advance, but remember the origins of the fracas between Johnny Franzen and The Big O–why allow anything you don’t believe in on the cover of a book you spent years (presumably) laboring over? Spurn the hack. Disparage the blurb. Stay true to yourself, author. No one else will.

Especially if you keep tossing around words like “cerise.”




Dear Dust,

Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex!

Ha ha. See how much fun writing one of these columns is now?

You fucking perv.



Dear Daniel,

I’ve never in my life met anyone who was not a pervert. Except perhaps my former roommates here at Castle Dust, who were stringent hetero Friday night missionary lights-off breeders who immediately cleaned up after their unexceptional (male) and non-existent (female) orgasms, before cranking The Mentalist at top volume.Pervert? We should all embrace the term, since in the context of our sex-fear culture, it generally means masturbating, copulating in creative positions, and embracing various strains of kink. Let alone choosing a partner of any gender, regardless of legislation to the contrary. We are all repositories of embarrassing and even disturbing thoughts and desires. It’s how we process those desires, and in what way we do (or don’t) act upon them that can turn “perversion” into an insult, and self-abnegation into a crime. For instance, Daniel, your decision to waste time writing such a witless letter, when you could have spent the afternoon with a handful of yourself, tugging away while reading my new compendium of erotic poetry: Sarah Palin Swallows, Returns to Capistrano. Buy a copy and release that orgone energy, my friend. It will do you a lot of good.

Dear Dust

All the End of Days talk surrounding publishing bores me to death. But I’m curious what you think about the idea that this generation’s contemporary fiction is not as good as the last’s. Forget sales. I’m talking about sheer perceptive power and quality sentences.

Z. Allure

Dear Z,

There are just as many smart, talented people writing now as there were in the 1970’s. Or the 1870’s for that matter. The problem is that most of the smart, talented people today are highly educated and well-read, with loving parents and generally painless upbringings. Despite the current rash of abuse memoirs, most contemporary writers have not been though a surfeit of hardships. Few of us grew up hungry in the rubble of occupied Poland, or worked eighteen hours a day under the blaring Mississippi sun taming an unruly plot of land. We grew up with The Cosby Show, Salisbury steak, and a restrictive drinking age. Our pains tend to be social and inter-personal, not experiential. 

Which means, in essence, that the basis for contemporary fiction is the back catalog of Contemporary Fiction itself. Most novels are now clever amalgams of other writer’s experiences, the recombinant tales of a more weathered generation, whether we actually enjoy those authors or not. We are all subconsciously re-writing Gay Talese and Harold Robbins, let alone Updike and Mailer. That, Z, is why there’s such a glut of empty cleverness and lack of perceptive heart at the core of so much of what passes for novels today. It has nothing to do with a lack of skill, and everything to do with the venality of apps, 140 characters, and Warcraft worlds assuming prevailing roles in our collective development.

Dear Dust,

Some advice please. I seem to have a problem writing anything other than tales of woe about my miserable love life. While it is cathartic to me, I worry that it may be sleep inducing for my readers. Should I invest in a tiny violin to accompany my tragic pieces? Or would it be better to try another genre? Like animal husbandry or something?


What Becomes of The Broken Hearted

Dear Broken Hearted,

I suspect that you don’t give yourself enough credit. After all, you’re the first one to sign off to The Dust with “love,” which I have arbitrarily decided speaks to your genuine soul and big heart, perhaps the two most important authorial qualities besides a history of amusing philandering and a vast knowledge of vampiric lore. But, even if you’re correct about the anesthetic qualities of your prose, I think you should continue trying to hone what comes naturally to you. While the world in general, and publishing in particular, would be better off with one less writer, I encourage you to deprive animal husbandry of your talents. Stick with writing, Broken Hearted. But be bold. Reject the comfortable. Give us the absolute cracked marrow of your loss, not just surface laments. And while it may be true that love’s happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion, there’s nothing more boring than a tale of woe in which the author does not recognize their own culpability.

Most Sincerely,

The Dust

Please send your questions to: AskTheDust [at] thenervousbreakdown [dot] com.

All contact information is entirely confidential.

TAGS: , , , , ,

J. ANGELUS DUST is not much interested in biography. J. Angelus Dust wants to know where it hurts.

35 responses to “Ask The Dust – Vol. 2”

  1. Marybear says:

    the dust is all about the authors or may other frustrated creative proles play too ?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Marybear! Mr. Dust says:

      “Everyone is welcome. All subjects are welcome.”

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Letter 1: Disagree profusely. Selling one’s soul is a laudable and always-profitable move, no matter what the area of spiritual commerce. Look what it did for Robert Johnson, Jimmy Page, and Nancy Grace. It’s always a seller’s market when the devil’s buying! So yeah, throw out those morals and convictions- if using the name and celebrity of someone whose very existence causes you untold pangs of disgust, get over it and use them.

    Letter 2: Love the Palin adult movie title. It will sell millions. Agree with Dust on this one.

    Letter 3: Agree with the Dust. Although people relate to feelings more than experiences, so if the cancellation of Terriers sends one into grips of profound, soul-sucking depression, then let ‘er rip. Today’s version of Oliver Twist could very well involve a broken “Guitar Hero” game.

    Letter 4: Agree with Dust. Good writing feels good, even when the subject is familiar. And everybody knows that broken hearts don’t heal overnight, over a week, or generally over a few months. So if the author is writing as part of an overall recovery process, then the pieces can be taken as parts of a greater whole. And yes, I just said “whole.” Anyway, the redemption will be all the sweeter for both the reader and the writer.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Joe Daly! Mr. Dust says:

      “Selling one’s soul is only occasionally profitable, particularly in the short term. While the Jimmy Page and Robert Johnson stories are likely apochryphal, it’s true that Nancy Grace should spend it quick.”

      • Richard Cox says:

        When Nancy Grace tries to spend her surreptitiously-earned income, I hope she find she was paid in Monopoly money.

        Or more likely, she’s the Devil herself. Evil in its purest form.

        • Joe Daly says:

          >>When Nancy Grace tries to spend her surreptitiously-earned income, I hope she find she was paid in Monopoly money.<<

          Coxy, Rod Serling would be proud! What a great revenge fantasy. I totally picture the black and white 1950s setting, where Nancy Grace skulks around being terrible to everybody, when a young Burgess Meredith appears in a classically-tailored suit, and offers her all the money she wants if she just signs her soul over to him. She gladly does so, totally missing the mischievous grin on his face that screams “IRONIC PUNISHMENT AHEAD,” and then at the end of the episode, she goes to a fancy NYC department store and orders tons of stuff, only to find out that all the money she received was play money. Then Burgess appears again and points out the loophole that she missed, and she screams as the camera closes in on her dilated pupil, ending in the blackness of… The Coxy Zone.

      • Joe Daly says:

        >>Selling one’s soul is only occasionally profitable<<

        Well, now that I think about it, I did practice law, and it paid shit. So yeah, I stand corrected.

        Thanks, Fab!

  3. Gloria says:

    I’m a total pervert. Loud and proud.

    I have thoughts about Z. Allure’s question and your answer – especially as someone who grew up on The Cosby Show, but also lived through enough for my own “rash of abuse memoirs” (yes, plural.) I guess my main problem is that the memoir is a joke – especially in light of the fact that it’s what I’m writing. But, because I also have heeded all of the “End of Days talk surrounding publishing,” I’m writing it for my own sake and not for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I guess what’s frustrating is the implication that people only want to read this type of story if it’s set in 3rd person with fictionalized characters – the implication being that imaginary people are more compelling vehicles for my experience than I am.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Gloria! Mr. Dust says:

      “If you are truly writing for your own sake, all else will take care of itself.”

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Well played, Dust. I would have commented earlier, but I was busy with my Palin porn (my Palorn?).

  5. Becky Palapala says:

    The problem is that most of the smart, talented people today are highly educated and well-read, with loving parents and generally painless upbringings.


    The good news is that despite relatively cushy backgrounds, most writers feel quite okay about doing things to make their lives difficult on purpose once they’re out from under mother’s watchful eye.

    Exhibit one: They are writers.

    It’s sort of like lifestyle bungee jumping. Having no real risk or hardship wherever it is they come from, they feel compelled to locate the highest cost of living in the country, move to those cities, refuse to get jobs, and then ruminate extensively on their self-imposed free-fall.

    I should quit saying “they.” Though I have not done this, there is good argument to be made that I would, were the stars to align just so. So it’s not like I’m so far above all of it. But since I haven’t done it yet, I still feel comfortable standing outside this nebulous “they” and passing judgment.

    In any case. Yes. I agree. I love hearing my own opinion. Are you single? How do you feel about polyandry? I guess I’m not sure if you’re a guy. I only assume you have a gender from the “-us” in Angelus.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Becky Palapala! Mr. Dust says:

      “Agreed. Purposeful self abasement produces inferior art. Your comfort in passing judgment is likely both one of your best and worst qualities. In any case, you are not above it, you are within it, possibly as a member of the resistance. I prefer polyamory.”

  6. Zara Potts says:

    Dear Dust,
    I am liking you more and more with every passing day.

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Zara Potts! Mr. Dust says:

      “I confess I am slightly embarrassed by how nice it is to be liked.”

  7. dwoz says:

    My thinking on “Broken Hearted…”

    girl, you’re going to quit competing with Joan Collins, and start competing with James Herriot?

    what are you, DAFT?

    Right on, Dust!

  8. Don Mitchell says:

    Dear Dust –

    I’m shocked that you let the “animal husbandry” suggestion slip past without the obligatory “but don’t get caught at it.”


    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Don Mitchell! Mr. Dust says:

      “A fair point. A good double-entendre should never go to waste.”

  9. No question, Tuesdays have just become a whole lot more interesting. And an advice jockey who knows his Jimmy Ruffin is worth their weight in gold. Although, I wonder if Broken Hearted was referring to the Joan Osborne version?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Sean Beaudoin! Mr. Dust says:

      “On first glance, I can’t say I liked the term “advice jockey,” but it’s growing on me.”

  10. Richard Cox says:

    I’m more fascinated with this column than I expected to be. For some reason I guessed your advice would be uniformly harsh, but instead you appear to be delivering real truth with heart. I’m in agreement with all your answers here.

    Want to blurb my next novel?

    • Fabian says:

      Hi, I’m Fabian, The Dust’s personal assistant. Thanks for your query, Richard Cox! Mr. Dust says:

      “Your fascination is most welcome. Your agreement is not necessary, but is also appreciated. If you like, please let your friends outside this group know about the column. It is my intention to serve as wide a platform as possible. No, I do not want to blurb your next novel. But I might buy a copy.”

  11. Zara Potts says:

    Dear Fabian,
    Personal Assistant to The Dust -where can I get a Madonna headset just like yours?
    Voguely Yours,
    Zara Potts

  12. Erika Rae says:

    Dear Dust, I am completely enamored with both you and your assistant, Fabian. I was wondering, theoretically speaking, where would one send nude photos if one were into that sort of thing?

  13. […] — Celebrity blurbage, mawkishness, and sexual perversity online […]

  14. hyrum says:

    Dust! Nobby Blangdon is talking about you!! insult his dead grandmother before this round gets scored against you!

  15. Century Ride says:

    Century Ride…

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