A Guest Column from Patti Thorn

[Because Mr. Champion has become temporarily unavailable due to the holidays, Return of the Reluctant turns over the rest of today’s content to Patti Thorn of the Rocky Mountain News. Ms. Thorn has graciously offered to expand upon her previously expressed concerns within these trusted waters.]

Dear Motherfuckin’ Santa: Goddam you and the reindeer you rode in on. Rudolph can lift his leg and piss on David Remnick’s head for all I care. And while we’re at it, let Graydon Carter choke on those Dunhills he’s always sneaking into his office. I’m Condé Nasty, you son of a bitch. And don’t you forget it!

thorn.jpgI’m writing this open letter to you for three reasons. First, my Prozac prescription ran out. Since that thin girl behind the counter always wears a Santa hat, I figured that you were the one I should address.

Second, the Rocky Mountain News editor-in-chief has accused me of suffering from a rare apoplexy known to affect book critics. How dare he! Michiko may go a little crazy from time to time, Laura Miller may remain humorless and John Updike may very well be steeped in formal language. But, outside of Dale Peck, that doesn’t make us any less important or any less sane! When I left the hospital shortly before I embarked on my journalistic career, I was given a Certificate of Sanity. You better believe I earned that thing, taking tests, mopping floors, getting in touch with my inner child. I stood on the dais next to the other young ladies jumping up and down in red robes. They may have filled the halls with their terrifying ululations. But I stood still, even when I felt the temptation within my solar plexus to howl to the seven winds. Their saliva oozed down their pendulous chins, Santa. But, oh no, not mine. I kept my reserve. The antidrool impulse inside me was impeccable. Months of telling myself that there was always something else to blame seemed to put things into perspective. I had a small paper napkin, something I had stolen from the kitchen long before. After carrying this napkin with me for six months, this final rite empowered me to use it. I wiped the corners of my mouth. I remained misty-eyed, yes, in light of the ritualistic transition to sanity. But other than this, my face was clean. Antiseptic. The man shook my hand, handed me my certificate, and said, “Go! Go, Young Patti! To the moutains, you shall find your destiny!” I replied, “Thank you, Uncle Ted. I will spend the rest of my time on this earth looking up.” Well, Santa, you know where I am today.

I can’t quite remember the third reason, but I’m pretty sure it involved you delivering some editorial assistant’s head on a platter. I’ve always had a thing for Baptists named John.

In conclusion, books are troubling things. The words wend and blur when I stare at the page. And those publishers. Who do they think they are? Why does the newspaper pay me? Why do I read? Why do I write?

My therapist says that I should look within for answers. But why effect personal achievement when I can take out my frustrations on a small readership?


A Perplexed Critic on the Edge,