& Recently . . .

K.B.N. on Engagement Rings by Karen Newman

K.B.N. on Bridesmaids by Karen Newman

Pitching to Cousin Graydon by K. Robinson Carter

Dear Food Network by Geoff Wolinetz

Concerning My Recent Submission by J. Daniel Janzen

Poetry in Pastrami: The Carnegie Deli Goes Lit by Ken Krimstein

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February 20, 2004

K.B.N. on Engagement Rings

This weekend I was at a BBQ, the kind of scene where all the guests are seated around a patio secretly wondering, “Isn’t there somewhere better I should be?” Anyway, I arrived later than most (O.K., dead last, by several hours—punctuality was never a virtue) and the male/female ratio was roughly 70/30. Things are looking good. The men are in some heated discussion about college football, so much so that they barely grunt in my fashionably late direction. Unable to make the grand entrance I was hoping for, I saunter over to the women’s enclave and see a friend who has recently gotten engaged. I congratulate her on her future nuptials, and before I have a chance to get another word out, all the other girls start chanting, “Show her your ring, show her your ring.” So I feign excitement (“It’s beautiful, gorgeous, SO different from every other cookie-cutter wedding ring that looks identical to it”) while squirming inside. I am now a part of a squealing, clichéd, every-guy’s-worst-nightmare group of girls. There is no way to back out of this, to separate myself from the Koo Karats Klan, so I endure the high-pitched oohs and aahs, and I seethe silently. For a while after, the ritual scene of ‘seeing the ring’ plays on loop in my head. And the longer it loops, more frustrated I become. When was the last time you saw a unique engagement ring? One so extraordinary you gushed for 10 minutes? In my dealings, 99% of the rings out there look exactly like your best friends’, your cousins’, your sisters’, your sisters-in-law’s, and all of your sistas’. And yet, it’s the first thing we are supposed to be asked about . . . “Wow, it’s gorgeous! I’ve never seen anything, oh wait . . . ”

Now don’t get me wrong, I love diamonds. And I love that my friends are happy and getting married. I just hate that the entire episode has been scripted for us. We have no say in how it will play out. Half the time, I’m shocked that a director doesn’t yell, “cut,” mid-ooh. I mean, I am not that girl—that squealing, cooing, cheesy, frilly girl. And yet I have to be. So as the credits roll, I hope the audience can appreciate the fine Academy Award-winning performance they just witnessed, that I am believable within the confines of the story, because while I may play that girl on TV, in real life, I’m just an actor.

February 19, 2004

K.B.N. on Bridesmaids

As a young girl growing up, a wedding was the stuff of which dreams were made. Starting from the Once Upon a Time straight through to the Happily Ever After, it was near impossible to separate yourself from Cinderella, Snow White, Julia Roberts à la Pretty Woman, or any other fictitious love-conquers-all fairy tale. There was a white horse carrying a handsome prince, a princess to be rescued, and the dress, oh G-d, the dress, that transformed the aforementioned princess into the most stunning beauty that ever was. The entire town would turn out for the event, and everyone would weep as the happy couple sailed off into the sunset.

Somehow though, in all of the movies, and stories, and glossy magazine spreads, one little topic went unmentioned. Pictures of bridesmaids, frolicking in the ugliest colors and shapes, showed them loving every waking second of their being part of the event of the century. So naturally, when one of my closest friends asked me to be one of her bridesmaids, I was moved to tears. Me? In your bridal party? Oh my G-d! This was OUR television moment. Tears welled up in our eyes, as we rose to the occasion, doing everything we’ve been planning for the better part of our lives.

Swept up in the moment, I mistakenly focused on the BRIDE’S part of the equation, never really giving the word MAID any thought. Dresses, flowers, hairdos -- this was going to be Fabulous with a capital F. Well I got a capital F all right... right up the ass, to be exact.

Here’s what men have to do as a groom’s man: Get shitfaced with strippers in Vegas, and show up for the wedding in a tux. Bonus points: Get even more shitfaced at the wedding, and fuck a bridesmaid in the bathroom (that is. if you can tear her away from the bride for five seconds).

Here’s what women have to do as a bride’s maids: Plan the bridal shower, including (but not limited to) the writing of cute little poems to put on the cute little invitations (which the bridesmaids will pick out) that will come complete with cute little instructions on what the guests need to do in order to attend the shower. Things like “bring cleaning supplies”, “write out your favorite recipe”, “make a page for a scrapbook on things you love about Bride X”, “bring a card with marital advice”, and on, and on, and on. Then you need to plan all sorts of bridal-shower activities for the guests because, as anyone knows, being left to their own devices, people might actually enjoy themselves, and we wouldn’t want that! SO, there will be games: BINGO, PRE-NEWLYWED GAME TRIVIA, PIN THE TAIL ON THE GROOM, (and, no, I’m not making this shit up). If only we could also play “Jeopardy!” instead… “Um, I’ll take ‘Tacky’ for 200, Alex. WAIT, did you say ‘DAILY DOUBLE’? Then make that, ‘HOW THE FUCK DID I GET INTO THIS MESS’ FOR EVERYTHING I’VE GOT, ALEX!” To add insult to injury, Mrs. Mom has to be CC’ed on everything, and did you ever spend time with SEVERAL girls when a decision had to be made? Ya! That generally works out well.

Should you survive the planning phase, you are thrown in knee-deep upon arrival at the shower, where you instantly become the emcee, making sure everyone is sufficiently miserable, except for the bride, of course. Presents must be opened at the event and as a bridesmaid you get the fun task of opening everything and passing it to the bride. So, by the end of the event, you’re tired, frazzled, and on the verge of bleeding to death from all of the paper cuts you got from opening 300 packages in the allotted 15 minutes of time.

At this point, you can only focus on the MAID part of the equation. You curse the bride, you curse weddings, and you vow that you will begin to distance yourself from all of your friends once they appear to be getting close to walking down that aisle. You fantasize about rekindling friendships once everyone is a Mrs. and baby showers are behind you as well. It’ll be nice to have friends again around age 40.

But before we terminate all friendships, there is still a wedding to get through. Remember how awesome the male bachelor party sounded? Ever see a guy in a thong covered in baby oil? No one wants to see ugly male junk, especially, in your face, as they sweat all over you, writhing in the middle of a pseudo-wrestling ring. I’ve been to female strip clubs and I feel safe to say, when it comes to class, they are the Plaza compared to the male revue’s rent-’em-by-the-hour motels. There are limits at female strip clubs, and G-d knows if you don’t show ’em the money, you ain’t gettin’ no honey. NOT SO at the male strip clubs. I was pretty sure the look of horror on my face would be enough to keep them at bay, but, lo and behold, one minute you’re sitting in a bleacher, the next your legs are around some greased up Chippendale as he completely disregards pleas to “BOTHER THE DAMN BRIDE!” Oh, and lest I forget, you have to drink out of a penis-shaped straw, as shady men try to eat candy off every crevice of your body. (O.K., this part rocks, but still...)

Oh, and did I mention this all comes out of your pocket? AND you are also expected to give gifts at each round? We’re talking dropping well over a grand long before the bitch (I mean YOUR BEST FRIEND) walks down the aisle.

So, where does this leave us? Option One: Drop all friends that aren’t already married but soon will be, immediately. Option Two: Somehow bring into vogue, through letter writing campaigns, strikes, or whatever other means necessary, what I deem to be the perfect solution: COMPOSE THE BRIDAL PARTIES OF THE B-LISTERS. You know, those who otherwise wouldn’t be invited. It’s kind of like, “Well you can come, but you’re gonna work for it.” It’s a win-win situation. You can keep your friends, your friend gets her indentured ‘maids,’ the B-listers make the cut, and everyone finally lives happily ever after.

February 18, 2004

Pitching to Cousin Graydon

Dear Graydon,

Hey-ho! All the best of the New Year from the Winnipeg Carters to the New York-via-Ottawa branch of our glorious and widespread clan. Today, as long promised, I am delighted to be able to float a small piece of literary craft for your inspection. It can wait a moment more. First, to family matters.

Mums and I are confident Her Majesty’s hands will soon be freed to perform a proper investiture upon her most illustrious subject this side of the pond. You, Edward Graydon Carter. You, Sir. That a man who has given more service to the Crown than practically anyone should remain a commoner for no better reason than the accident of his having been born elsewhere in the Empire than in its centre, while Mick Jagger struts about with a knighthood (nothing against Mick as a celebrity, of course), is preposterous! If, as you famously proclaimed, the age of irony is over, the age of absurdity is surely in overdrive. It must be stopped.

We continue to exert our influence upon Buckingham Palace, the British Foreign Secretary, the Governor General of Canada, and every Member of the Canadian Parliament. I compose the letters; Mums writes each one in her still elegant and imposing calligraphy. Two full years off the fags as of New Year’s Day, Mums is as sharp as ever, but her hands must be kept busy against a relapse, heaven forbid. Permit me, cousin, also to hoist a pint to your good health—that is all I will say. Only, when you are ready to break free, and you need a panic pal to talk you through the darkest hours, I am a direct-dial phone call away.

All right, Graydon. Before we get all emotional—shall we get to that bit of business I mentioned? Excellent. I am wondering in regard to the ifs and whethers of you or your executive staffers perhaps taking a look at a manuscript I have produced. It is just a little thing. “Writers! Want to Give Your Articles Blockbuster Boffo? Add Today’s Top Celebs! These Proven Pro’s Tips Will Up Your Prose’s Hip!” is its title. I will “paste” it into the body of this e-mail, just below my letter.

Would it ease your deliberations to know that one of the tips is based on an actual writing success story? Yes, about a year ago, I landed a piece of topical how-toolery in the Post (the feistier of our national scene-maker rags), thanks to referencing of a certain top celeb. That item was called “Throw Your Own Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Perhaps you saw it. Or the tear sheets I sent. In any event, here is the exemplary passage again:

Is your skin tone equal shades of Gwyneth Paltrow and raw poultry? Six months before your special day, begin a regimen of tint-enhancing treatments at your tanning salon. By the time you walk down that aisle, you’ll be Olympic Bronze! Warning: don’t be shy about stripping down to the full Margaret in the tanning booth. Otherwise, yikes. My Big Fat White Honeymoon!

The tips work, Graydon. They are good tips. They are presented in an engaging Q&A format. Further, with over twenty-five current stars, the article offers exciting opportunities for photo-illustration.

Why, only yesterday, who should come slipping through the mail slot but Gwyneth herself, along with an assemblage of other gorgeous starlets, simply beguiling on your of March cover. In bleakest winter, a breath of quickest spring.

I would be basking in Gwyneth’s jonquilescent effulgence this minute, but the arrival of a new issue—especially when it is The Hollywood Issue!—is Mums’s cue to sally off to the hairdresser’s, and she has this morning absconded thither, with the new Fair in tote. “Come along, Kev,” she says. “Come have a spa day. Graydon would come have a spa day.” She means well, but what would I do with myself afterward, all gussied up? We left the ranch in 1995. After nine years in the city and I am still a frowzy old farmosexual, I am afraid there is no hope for me. I must leave the high-style scene to you and Mums.

Graydon, the perfect happiness it would give Mums to open her favourite magazine and gaze upon an article penned by her own and only child, and then to pass it round among the old dolls under the dryers, might well be the final great happiness there remains for her to know in this life, her annual Oscar bash notwithstanding. Do take a look at “Writers! Add Today’s Top Celebs!” and, when you can steal a second, send me word of your intentions for it. Why don’t we say, by next Tuesday? Brilliant. Thanks, mate. That’s sorted then.

Now, tell us when you are going to pack that good-looking crew of yours into the wagon and come up for a visit! It’s been ages, Grady. It would be nothing short of magnificent to meet you at last. Till then,

With warmest anticipation and fondest regards,


K. Robinson Carter
Winnipeg, Canada

raw poultry March cover jonquilescent effulgence

February 12, 2004

Dear Food Network

Food Network
1180 Sixth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Attn: Consumer Relations Department

February 12, 2004

Dear Food Network,

On February 8, 2004, after watching Bobby Flay and portly gentleman strap the feedbag onto a rather hungry group of fireman on “Boy Meets Grill,” I got up to make myself a sandwich (tuna salad) and pour myself a tall glass of soda (Sierra Mist!). When I had returned to the couch, I noticed that the new Food Network program involved a cook-off of some kind. Being a fan of your network, and being the sort of individual who respects and enjoys the spirit of friendly competition, I kept my hands off the dial. As an aside, this is a horribly outdated phrase. What kind of moron would buy a television with a dial with all of the remarkable advances in remote-control technology? I can change the channel on my set from another room, for crying out loud!

Anyway, it turned out that the competition was a Dutch Oven Cook-off! Dutch Oven! Don’t you see, Food Network? You have the supreme high commander of the F.C.C. making waves about the murky, half-second-long shot of an almost visible nipple during the Super Bowl, but he lets this kind of language on television go by with impunity. Am I the only one in this fading Republic that still knows what a Dutch oven is, Food Network? For the record, a Dutch oven is when you fart under the blankets a few times and then lift them for an unsuspecting visitor, thereby releasing all of the collected odor and warmth that had been gathering.

It seems that some people are using this gastric energy to fuel a cook-off. Is this some kind of sick joke, Food Network, using the foul anal emissions of human beings to power the boiling of water? If this is the case, I am not amused. It’s not like you let the allusion slide either. Your foul-mouthed announcers only kept repeating the term with such clever phrases as “This is where the Dutch-oven cookers show their skill,” and “The judges are going to sidle up to the Dutch-oven buffet,” which, for your information, doesn’t sound the least bit appetizing to me.

I was always under the impression that the Food Network was a nice family network, one where I could sit my children down and learn how to prepare tasty delicacies of the Far East. Due to the horribly offensive nature of this show, I may even have to call into question whether your “Iron Chef” translations are accurate. You may all be yukking it up in the office while my kid is hearing some Japanese pervert scream about his genitals or something. This may be the kind of thing you find funny, but I assure you, we are not laughing.

I thank you for you attention to this matter and I look forward to hearing from you.

Geoff Wolinetz

February 11, 2004

Concerning My Recent Submission

Dear Editor,

I hesitate to bother you about this, since your writer's guidelines are very clear on the point of follow-up emails, but those same guidelines also specify a two-month response time, and it's now been five months since I first sent you the attached submission. You have others of mine that are more recent, but still getting up there, so I thought I'd start with the oldest one and work my way forward.

Another thing I was wondering about is whether you have any kind of "frequently rejected" program, like how a café will give you a free cup for every ten purchased. Maybe you could do it where every ten rejections, you actually get a substantive response, instead of just "Thanks, but I'll pass." That way, the writer could use that information to try to please you better the next time, instead of fumbling blindly in the dark.

"The best way to figure out what we like is to read us." See, that sounds helpful, but it's really quite subjective, unlike, say, "We like mystery stories where all the characters are dogs." To my eye, the stories I've sent in are very similar to the ones that you accept, which can be frustrating.

For example, many of your stories are written in the form of advice columns, each time with a certain schtick that runs through every letter and/or reply. I followed this format to the letter numerous times: four to six pairings, under seven hundred words total, yet still you declined to publish such winners as "Ask My Genital Warts" and "Ask Hitler's Proctologist"—the latter later appeared in The New Yorker's "Shouts and Murmurs," I'll have you know.

You've run several pieces in a faux-Viacom vein, such as "We Love the 1620s" and "Baked Beans: Behind the Music," yet you rejected my "Martha Quinn Dream Log," which, might I add, I obtained only at considerable expense and personal risk. This time, you did grant me the courtesy of a substantive response, if that's a fair description of "Martha who?"

Lists? Don't get me started. You've run more tables than an Ikea stock boy, and you must have great cell service, because every one of them has been phoned in. See? See how funny I am? What's your fucking problem? "Top Ten Funniest Things about Retards" not good enough for you, Mister Big Shot Editor?

Crazy celebrity make-'em-ups? "Robert Blake Raped Me in the Prison Shower" speaks for itself. Bogus memoirs with a quirky twist? You guys are the Oral History Project of the Land of Make-Believe, but I still haven't heard back on "Butchering My Whore Grandmother Like a Hog," and I spent hours on the graphics for that one just so you could do something a little different on your boring-ass, black-and-white, I'm-so-perfect layout.

Humor and satire aside, my serious work has fared no better. The short fiction that won me Most Promising honors from my M.F.A. classmates has bounced off your walls like infant cannonballs, even the tender and moving "What I'm Talking About When I Talk About the Things We Used To Talk About Before I Nailed Your Sister." I've told it like it is in numerous timely and insightful opinion pieces, but I guess you'd rather keep people in the dark about fluoridation, global cooling, and those mailmen who jam the catalogs down on top of your letters so everything gets all crinkled. As for criticism, I don't know where you got the idea that people care more about that Japanese hack Murakami than an all-American writer like Robert Ludlum. It's just embarrassing, really.

It's pretty obvious you totally get off on it, sitting there all smug and powerful in your lavish Poughkeepsie headquarters, master of all you survey. Yes or no, live or die, be heard or be silenced, all according to your whim, the Great Man, Kingmaker, God, Sugar Daddy. But you know what, Sugar Daddy? Too much sugar can make you sick. Just remember that, sweet, sweet Daddy.

I don't even know why I keep doing it. By my count, I've submitted eighty-seven pieces to your journal without a single acceptance, including nineteen that I haven't heard back on, ten of which are past the aforementioned two-month response period. And that's just since the beginning of the year. I've been shooting for a hundred, but sometimes I wonder if it's even worth it.

But you know what? I'll never stop writing. "I can't go on anymore, I'll go on anyway," as Samuel Taylor Beckett said. The muse cannot be troubled with the exigencies of the marketplace. Our destinies are linked, yours and mine, the cobra and the mongoose, the coyote and the roadrunner, the socket and the plug. In fact, there are a couple I'm working on right now that I think you're really going to like. I should be able to get both to you by the end of the week—I'll stay home from work if I have to. I won't say anything about them now—just this: Jews. Get psyched!

Keep up the good work. God Bless.

Carrot Top

February 10, 2004

Poetry in Pastrami: The Carnegie Deli Goes Lit

In an effort to boost sagging sales, famed New York eatery the Carnegie Deli—home of the mile high pastrami on rye—is taking a new tack. To appeal to the appetites of the hoards of hungry literati prowling midtown Manhattan, they’ve added a lineup of new deli creations named after the leading lights of Jewish lit. So, now joining the “Uncle Milty” and “Henny’s Heaven,” intrepid fressers (look it up!) will be able to sink their teeth into the following mavens—Jewish men who disappointed their mothers by not becoming doctors, but who have reached greater success in becoming overstuffed sandwiches:

The Portnoy * $8.95

Fresh liver and lots of it, piled high on some very crusty white bread. The perfect blend of kosher and trayf, the supreme shiksa goddess of sandwichdom, this delight is served best with a side of bile. Phil ’er up!

Uncle Saul’s Special * $7.95

Augie would march a mile to grab a bite of this one. Fourteen layers of meaning lie buried in this hodgepodge of all culinary styles—from nods to classical Escoffier cuisine to the latest sizzling burger from that greasy-spoon diner on the wrong side of the tracks. This one knocked ‘em out at the Nobels, and it’ll have you running for seconds yourself.

Malamud’s Mish-Mosh * $11.95

So you shouldn’t go hungry, Uncle Bernie liked this repast steeped high with everything that makes a meal a real oy vey-inducing affair. You’ve got your schmaltz and your matzoh balls, you’ve got kreplach and kugle and kishkes. There’s lotsa latkes and just a zetz of kasha. And, to wrap it all up, a weird, borscht-belt pigeon with a distinct resemblance to Jackie Mason hops around doing shtick until you cry uncle.

Kazin’s Kvetcher * $9.95

(comes with soup or salad)

This sandwich will give the critic in anyone plenty to hate. It’s a perfectly diabolical combination of all the worst ingredients, self-indulgent, solipsistic, badly nuanced, with more than a soupcon of overly pious insincerity and topped off by a healthy dollop of yentaing by one of those smarty-pants Bloom boys. Who needs it? Or, as your mother used to say, why eat it? You could lose an eye?

February 06, 2004

‘And Another Thing about Bush 43’ by Maureen Dowd

According to the recent yawnfest-slash-impromptu-Q&A with Bush 43, he “slept through” the recent breast-baring Janet Jackson high jinks. Given that the whole country is talking about Miss Jackson (does she refer to herself as “Miss Jackson,” as she’s so nasty these days?) as a talking point, does it surprise anyone that Bush 43 was asleep at the—and as the—wheel (turned)?

Certainly not Karl Rove. Or Condi and her magical legion of know-nothings, dishing it out with hunky Matt Lauer. Perhaps it’s just as well, lest we face the ignominy of realizing that our “faith-based” son of Bush 41 saw a “boobie” on television. Now we wouldn’t want that, would we? Especially when Dubya and his “evil-doer” Hang ’Em High posse try so diligently to eradicate any aspect whatsoever of openness and frankness about sexuality as his uncharismatic Christian fellows who long for The Rapture might pull funding around the upcoming Kerry-fest which will no doubt include Dubya’s intifada on partial-birth abortions.

While Saddam wonders what the hell he did to coerce the al-Qaeda folks to take down the W.T.C. towers since he was being forcibly contained in a no-fly, no-trade, no-outgoing-calls, no-delivery, no-deposit-no return, no-nothing zone; Dubya orders up himself a big slab o’ America-pie in the form of an “official” investigation into finding out what the President knew, and when he knew it, or if he knew what he thought he knew, when in fact, he might not have known what we thought he said he knew, ’cuz the bums downstairs at the C.I.A., which Bush 41 used to head up, might not have told him what he should have known or ought to have known before he knew that he didn’t know it. You know?

I for one will rest easier knowing that Bush 43 has to get to bed early so he can get up early to begin taking away the rights of American citizens with his and Dick’s unpatriotic “Patriot Act”, which, while time is ebbing away at its statute of limitations, will keep us safe from all those people who want to hurt us over there in our American base in Communist Cuba. Thank God for Gitmo!

And speaking of Castro, you would think the former owner of the Texas Rangers was at least a sports fan, wouldn’t you? Even if it’s only baseball, which has been a-berry-berry good to him, and that which he truly loves (outside of the Bible, which we assume he read before going to bed early and missing Miss Jackson’s boobie): what is he saying to his Republican tax-break voters in the U.S. of A? He doesn’t think THE SUPER BOWL IN HOUSTON is all that worth staying up for? Maybe it’s because the only people who got executed were the Panthers, and anyone in the American public who had to endure a Justin Timberlake “Surpirse Appearance” with Miss Boobson?

Whatever the case, America does not negotiate with terrorists; Bush 43 will “smoke ’em out”; and make no mistake, and do not misunderestimate him: unlike his two-term predecessor, Dubya will get to the bottom of this. Independent counsel or not.

I, by the way, am a C-cup. Take that, Miss Jackson!
E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com

February 04, 2004

An Assortment of Love Poems Written with the Assistance of a Pamphlet Entitled “How 2 Write Love Poems That Don't Suck” Distributed by Delias.com, a Clothing Company That Caters to Pre-Teen Girls

  1. Write a poem that is only seven words long.
    Your girlfriend is a freak-ass. Dump her.*

    * hyphenate = 1 word
  2. Choose something you associate with your cutie (the color blue, the letter X). Go for a walk and notice everything that is associated with that thing. Return home and write a poem that includes all the things you noticed.
    The rat skitters out of the dumpster
    the virus drifts across the city
    on a stale wind
    in the form of
    cups and papers and flyers and cigarette butts
    picked through by the hungry
    crawled over by the infested
    dripping down the streets in a river
    like the sludgy brown of your eyes
    and the matted fur of your legs
    and the addled brain in your trashed out head, love.
  3. Write a poem that uses “diminishing rhymes,” that is, a poem in which each rhyme sound contains that rhyme after is (heartthrob, throb, rob).

    No longer my heartthrob.
    You make my bad knee throb
    and I think I’m in love with your brother Rob.
  4. Cut random lines from a newspaper. Write a love poem that alternates between those words and your own.
    Palestinian officials quickly condemned Israel for acting like a “state above the law” in its continued use of assassinations to eliminate Palestinian militants.

    Which is kind of how I feel sometimes when you yell at me.

    Mexico has plenty of natural gas and oil in the ground but lacks the technology and money to exploit them fully.

    But you exploit me fully every day.

    Many economists have said Congress can rarely pass tax cuts quickly enough for them to affect downturns, which usually last less than a year.

    I do hope we can pull through this little downturn, dear.

    The roundworm is a little tube of a creature with a body of 959 cells, of which 302 are neurons in what passes for its brain. Humans have 100 trillion cells in their body, including 100 billion brain cells.

    I used to love you a lot more, I think.

February 03, 2004

Routh, Phillip

Although Phillip Routh is on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize for Literature, his less profound work can be found at Pindeldyboz and here on Y.P.R.

Letter to Failure

Dear Editor:

As is the case with God, I’ll address you by your title.

When I learned that you were putting out a magazine called Failure, I thought that I had finally found my niche. I read your manifesto with growing excitement. I quote from it: "Failure interests me more than success. Success is shallow; failure deepens one. A single resident of a Bowery flophouse has more to tell about life than a hundred Donald Trumps." Nice words...

I’ve submitted three times and have gotten three form rejections, all with hurriedly scribbled comments. My last piece, "Forty-two Strikeouts in a Row," was dismissed as "trivial." One word! But how much it reveals of your character. Sad, that someone can’t recognize how a Little League experience can start a boy on a path that will, in a sense, have him forever whiffing away at life.

My first submission, "Me and the Stick Shift," about my failure to learn to drive with one of those monstrous contraptions, received this comment: "Most cars have automatic now." As if that had anything to do with the essence of my story (which was about manhood). Again, sad, that you’re in charge of things, can pass down these judgments from on high.

I’m heartened by what you do publish, what it reveals about you. One relationship story after another. And these pieces don’t even get to the truth. In your last issue a woman gives the unsavory details of her four failed marriages, but what she recounts are the failings of the men: alcoholic, controlling, abusive, emotionally cold. She’s fine! Just picks losers! Her piece gets published, but "Creamed by Blockbuster," a moving account of how my small video store failed, earns a "We get so many of these we call them 'Wal-Marts'." You pass up the universal with a ho hum.

Though I’m sure you’d be entertained, I must deny you entry to the bedrooms of my life.

Have I been diminished by your rejections? Not one bit. In the realm of failure I’m like Einstein when faced with a math problem, Freud with a tic, Goodyear with an under-inflated tire. It is I who possess the authority.

By the way, what’s with the glossy paper? I notice the grants and endowments you receive, from New York society types who think charity is an excuse for a fancy party. I can imagine you working the room, wine glass in hand, clad in a turtleneck pullover and sporting an impressive beard (when all I can grow is a scraggly one). Failure? You haven’t a clue.

I’ll wind this up with a quote from a very great man: "You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore." I won’t be submitting to you again. I recognize the humor in this — that I’ve failed to be published by Failure magazine. But there’s also a certain rightness to it, considering what the world is. What you are. So I can laugh about it with a sense of pride. Listen tonight and you may hear me; mute the TV, wait for the refrigerator to stop its hum; listen, you can hear me — or maybe it’s one of the multitude like me, laughing away in the night.

Phillip Routh

February 01, 2004

Writers-on-Writing Month

In which Y.P.R. presents material regarding inspiration, revision, rejection, writer's block, book reports, language, style, poetry, prose, plays, ink, typewriters, quills, sharpies, and Wite-out.