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The Journal of Literary Satire | Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited
Thursday, June 2, 2005

Extremely Long and Incredibly Bad Writer's Block

by Angela Genusa

My name is Oskar Schell, I am nine years old, I am obsessed with encyclopedic trivia and I have writer’s block. One potato kugel, two potato kugel, three potato kugel, four. I could have a googolplex potatoes. A googol to the googol power. That’s a one with one hundred zeroes after it. I think I will Google around on the Internet to fill space in my daybook. Googol: 99,900 results; Google: 385,000,000; Gogol: 821,000; extremely: 89,400,000; loud: 26,000,000; incredibly: 22,000,000; close: 327,000,000; Jonathan Safran Foer: 118,000; Saffron: 2,160,000; Oskar Schell: 848; Stephen Hawking: 677,000; A Brief History of Time: 108,000; Buckminster: 625,000; bucky balls: 8,010; heavy boots: 81,300; Hamlet: 5,640,000; Minch: 108,000; Toothpaste: 2,170,000; Kurt Schluter: 91; 6th borough: 1,140; Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald: 768; powdering her nose: 1,250; Churchill: 15,800,000; I Love New York: 110,000; 9/11: 45,400,000. Do you know what time it is?: 17,400; Excuse me, where do you get tickets?: 276,800; What are you doing here? 210,400; I want to buy a ticket to Dresden: 11,200. Ah, so many things to know and so many Google searches to conduct. And so many, many pages to fill to finish a book for which I have been paid a handsome advance. Oh, here is a Web page full of French phrases I can use to fill space with. Greetings: Hello, bonjour. Good day, bonjour. Good evening, bonsoir. Good night, bonsoir. Hi, salut; goodbye, au revoir; see you soon, a bientôt. These are handy because I can fill a page of my day book with one response per page and if someone asks me a question, I can just turn to a page in my daybook and point to a response. Yes: Oui. No: non. That depends: Cela depend. I don’t know: Je ne sais pas. I don’t think so: Je ne crois pas. I suppose so: Je suppose que oui. I think so, Je crois que oui. It doesn’t matter: Ça ne fait rien. I don’t mind: Cela m’est égal. Of course: Bien sûr. True: Vrai. With pleasure: Avec plasir. Please: S’il vous/te plait. Thank you (very much): Merci (beaucoup). Excuse me: Excusez-moi. I’m sorry, but … : Je regrette, mais … That’s a shame: Quel dommage. May I … ? : Puis-je … ? Then there are questions I might like to ask someone else, like where? Où? When? Quand? Why? Porquoi? What? Qu’est-ce que/qui … ? Who? Qui? How? Comment? How much/many? Combien? Is/are there? Y a-t-il? Where is the reception, please? Où est la reception, s’il vous plaît? Is there a car park? Y a-t-il un parking? Is there a restaurant in the hotel? Est-ce qu’il y a un restaurant à l’hôtel? Is there an elevator? Y a-t-il un ascenseur? How much is it for the room per night? Quel est le prix de la chambre par nuit? What is the price? C’est à quel prix? Do you have any rooms available for tonight? Avez-vous des chambres libres ce soir? I’m sorry, we are full. Je regrette, mais c’est comp let. Is there another hotel near here? Y a-t-il un autre hôtel près d’ici? I would like two single rooms and a double room as well. Je voudrais deux chambres particulières et une chambre pour deux personnes aussi. I would like a room with a shower. Je voudrais une chambre avec douche. We will be staying for seven nights. On compte rester sept nuits. What time does the hotel close in the evenings? L’hôtel ferme à quelle heure, le soir? Is breakfast included? Est-ce que le petit déjeuner compris? When is dinner served? Le dîner est servi à quelle heure? Here is the key for room number 5. Voici la clé de la c hambre cinq. Can somebody please bring my cases up? Est-ce que quelqu’un peut monter mes valises, s’il vous plaît. May I have towels for room 5 please? Je voudrais des serviettes pour la chambre cinq, s’il vous plaît. Where is the television room? Où est la salle de télévision? Where is the games room? Où est la salle de jeux? And I love AltaVista Babelfish. It gives me translations of questions that a 9-year-old like me asks. You know, profound existential questions, such as: Is this all there is? Est-ce que ce tout est là est? Ah, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Ah, regardez toutes les personnes seules. Où elles que toutes viennent de? What is the sum of my life? Quelle est la somme de ma vie? Then there’s Beatle lyrics. We all live in a yellow submarine. Hey Jude, take a sad song and make it better: Hé Judas, prennent une chanson triste et la rendent meilleure. Yesterday? In my life. I’m not half the man I used to be. We all live in a yellow submarine. Then I can doodle around on phonespell.org and fill even more space. What does my phone number spell? What phone number would my name spell? Oskar Schell. oskarschell => 675-277-24355. extremely => 398-736-359. incredibly => 462-733-4259. loud&close: 568-#32-5673. buckminster => 282-564-67837. toothpaste => 866-847-2783. grandma => 472-6362. One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, lock the door. She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas. Please speak slower: Parlez plus lentement, s’il vous plaît. Would you write that down please: Voulez-vous m’écrire cela, s’il vous plaît. Could you explain that please? Pouvez-vous expliquer cela, s’il vous plait? How is that pronounced? Cela se prononce comment? I have forgotten the word for … : J’ai oublié le mot pour … How do you say that in French/English? Comment dit-on cela en français/anglais? What does that mean? Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire? Can you repeat that please: Voulez-vous répéter cela, s’il vous plaît. Number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine. Number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine. Number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine. Number nine, number nine, number … Un, deux, trios, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. I need to telephone Dresden. Je dois téléphoner en Dresden. It’s the first time I have used a telephone in France. C’est le premier fois que je téléphone en France. Where is the telephone directory? Où est l’annuaire téléphonique? I would like to reverse the charges. Je voudrais téléphoner en P.C.V. I have been cut off. J’ai été coupé(e). And I haven’t even begun to tell you about all my fantastic inventions! And then there’s the key, the key, the key! La clef, la clef, la clef! See, I’ve written a book: A roman à clef (pronounced roh-máhn a clay), French for “novel with a key.” Only 320 pages left to go and then I can finish the last few pages with my flipbook. That’s why I’m not where you are. One potato kugel, two potato kugel, three potato kugel, four.

ménage à tortoise
Angela Genusa is a writer of experimental fiction, poetry, and humor. A real smartass, she once asked her new creative writing teacher, Steve Barthelme, "Any relation to Donald?" Oops, her bad. Some of her work can be found on the Web in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Über, The Black Table, and Opium Magazine, among others. She weaves burlap and gold into the fabric of our lives.