I DARE you to print this. I know you won’t. And when you don’t, I’m going to start posting this on comment boards around the site.
Why? Because I’ve been studying “The Dust” ever since the (I won’t say your, because you are not you) first column. I’ve done a good deal of research: cross-checking, old posts, word comparisons, repetitions, likely suspects. And I’ve finally narrowed your identity down to one person.
The only person you could be.
Upon what do I base this conclusion? Let’s start with undeniable similarities in sense of humor (puerile, forced), vocabulary (self-aggrandizing, flowery), sarcasm (endless, tiresome), political preferences (uniformly and predictably left), music references (the smoking gun), and punctuation (as if you’d never attended school).
Not to mention, which I will, but grudgingly, an enviable intelligence. Although it becomes less enviable as each line reveals a certain childishness, let alone a deeply sublimated inner asshole.
There’s other things. Like the fact that you’ve admitted you’re a forty-ish male with children. Check. Or that you have “a few books out.” Check. That you’re unusually tall. Check. That you are Jewish. Check. Or that you have previous (published) experience answering letters and giving advice. Check. It’s also well known that you’re friends with Brad Listi. Your constant references to “Helmsman Listi” confirm your inside-joke status, and your likely avenue to the job.
You mentioned in your introductory letter that you’ve been “studying this site for quite a while without actually being a part of it.” Well, do you think your not being a part of it has to do with the fact that you launched an unwarranted attack on a TNB member and then were more or less chased away from the community with your tail between your legs?
What better way to “return” than under the guise of an anonymous advice columnist?
I’ve been here too long to put up with this sort of thing. Honesty is an essential commodity for any group of individuals. Historically and philosophically this has always been true. Why shouldn’t it be demanded, here and now?
Oh, and that other evidence-bomb I alluded to before: you’ve already self-published a book called Letters From People Who Hate Me, which, amazingly enough, is full of letters that you answer at length, in the process of giving advice! Oh, and you do it in exactly the same tone, with the identical level of dismissiveness, as J. Angelus Dust! Just a coincidence? I guess it could be, since apparently no one ever read that book. It is, after all, self-published. And was widely ignored. Maybe that’s why you thought no one would notice.
I noticed. And so did a lot of other people. Any number of them have asked me who I thought you were. And I made a few guesses. Until the truth dawned on me.
Like a nine pound hammer.
Even better (or should I say more damning?) here’s a recent quote from The Dust.
“But I understand why that seemingly innocuous sticker filled you with rage. There is a high price to be paid for convenient ideology all along the political spectrum. And those who believe in The Power of The Motto are rarely the ones forced to pony up. Particularly the tweedy Utopian who takes pride in as lazy and self-congratulatory a notion as World Peace. Which, of course, requires the banal idea that the world population is capable of enlightened deliberation on any single issue. Let alone all issues. And that the Zen-appropriated “visualization” of such hubris could magically usher in a global transformation. One that even the giddiest Pollyanna would be forced to admit (preferably while being waterboarded) that no two nations sharing a border have ever mustered throughout human history.”
And here is a quote from your book Which Brings Me To You:
“But I am not dismayed by the fact that your rage is inspired by ideologies that are all too convenient. The powers that be are never the ones who pay the check, they always leave you sitting there with the bill while they’re in the bathroom. And tipping is a Utopian ideal, one that usually runs at about 7.5 percent. The idea that any group of people are capable of enlightened deliberation is a fallacy-sheer magical thinking. Pollyanna and Politics have a lot of letters in common for a reason, they are myths that have been spun, unchanged, over centuries of human history.”
Jesus, you’re cannibalizing yourself. At least try a little harder!
And I love how last week, when I threatened to unmask you, (I didn’t send that letter because I thought you’d print it, but I guess you were scared enough to try and make a joke out of it) and then suddenly there you are on the boards, after all these months, with some dumb (fake innocent) poetry review. What a surprise! Just trying to make yourself look like a normal TNB user. Nice try! Not only did you only get one comment, but the post itself almost put TNB into a collective coma of boredom.
Need any more proof? I’ve got lots, but I’ll wrap it up with this:
I found a link to an old issue of Tin House, where, ha-ha, a few years ago you wrote a very positive review of John Fante’s Ask The Dust. Hey, that’d make a really great title for an advice column, don’t you think?
Oh, and I did a little digging in the code. Put my HTML skills to use.
Found an IP address.
You want to deny it? Go ahead.
J. Angelus Dust is really….STEVE ALMOND.
Thanks for the memories, Dust.
I mean Steve.
Dear The Unmasker
Great follow-up letter, and thanks! That was almost like an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Except with way more commas. And less unintentional shots of Angela Landsbury’s potbelly. Hey, I wonder if this means that Helmsman Listi will start increasing the size of my weekly check?
But, seriously, I have one question for you:
Do you really think my vocabulary is flowery?
Ask Me Anything.
Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.
Go ahead, I know it hurts.
All contact info is entirely confidential.
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