Sunday, March 9, 2003

University of Oxford
University Offices
Wellington Square, Oxford

March 8, 2003

Dear Oxford University,

Listen, I’m in a bit of a bind here, Oxford, and I could sure use your help. You see, what started as an innocent little white lie six months ago (“Why, yes, I can steer a tugboat…”) has snowballed, as lies often do, into an elaborate web, which has become very tangled, and is not like a snowball at all. Anyway, I was cajoled into “volunteering” to host a dinner party. Among the guests will be my fiancée, Brianna; her father, Professor Von Konstantine; Mister Earl Truddington-Raliegh, C.E.O. of the major media company which employs me; and lastly, Viktor Karthagon, the ambassador from Liechtenstein.

Oxford, it’s all a sham. You see, they are all under the impression that I attended your university (which, between you and me, I didn’t). Now, I’m sure you think that’s a forgivable fib, but if I’m called out on this, then I’ll have to explain a whole lot of lies which were based on the “I’m an Oxford alum” foundation: my friendship with Rhodes Scholar Brittany Murphy, my fluency in Hindi and Dutch, my “Ox” tattoo.

How much does a diploma cost, Oxford? It’s probably really expensive. I’m prepared to offer US$300. What do you say? It doesn’t even have to be real; you can even write “Not a Real Diploma” on it, very small and someplace near the bottom, so it will be officially a not real diploma, officially granting me no degree in anything at all, but I can fool my dinner guests with a carefully chosen frame. I have a nice frame picked out. I think this can work. My entire future rests on you, Oxford. My marriage. My job. A possible international incident. As you know, Liechtenstein is not a very stable nation. If this house of cards untangles and desnowballs, I can’t even imagine the global repercussions.

So, Oxford? Think you can help me out?

Josh Abraham

P.S. You guys make awesome shirts.

Josh Abraham was born in Algeria in 1913. He spent his early years in North Africa, working various jobs—in the weather bureau, in an automobile-accessory firm, in a shipping company—to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. As a young journalist, his report on the unhappy state of Muslims in the Kabylie region aroused the Algerian government to action and brought him public notice. From 1935 to 1938 he ran the Théâtre de l’Equipe, a theatrical company that produced plays by Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevsky. During World War II he was one of the leading writers of the French Resistance and editor of Combat, then an important underground newspaper. Abraham’s fiction, his philosophical essays, and his plays have assured his preëminent position in modern French letters. In 1957 Abraham was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His sudden death on January 4, 1960, cut short the career of one of the most important literary figures of the Western world when he was at the very summit of his powers. No, wait. That was Albert Camus.

Dear New York Times Book Review In which the novelist manqué J. Abraham mounts an epistolary quest for review.
Dear N.Y.T.B.R., Pt. I The Editor The New York Times Book Review 229 West 43rd Street New York, N.Y. 10036 March 8, 2003 Dear New York Times Book Review, Surely you’ve heard of me and my little novel, Clams Casino. The literati are ranting...
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