The first moment I read you, I knew you were the same. The same as all those other passive-aggressive tidbits they seem to publish over there. Here, in the midst of (not amidst?) these publishing conglomerates, was independent prose. Look at her relentless second-person stance! Look at the soft snark extant within the piece, hypocritically unchecked from Julavits and Vida, addressed to no one in particular! How convenient! My partially digested dinner went up my esophagus and out my mouth to you.
I know it’s hard for you. Most McSweeney’s writers are thirtysomething Donald Barthleme wannabes who wouldn’t know funny if it bit them on the ass. I know you deal with wanting to get published, sans compensation, in this environment, and having to proffer the wonted generalizations. Your cowriters like you, but they receive the same rejection notices, because they really don’t understand you. They’ve read the same books you’ve read, they continually revere people like Julie Orringer as sages (“It is extremely important to hang out with non-writers and be interested in things that have nothing to do with writing.” Duh.), and fail to ponder the intellectual value of hunky authors and authoresses salivating over, rather than questioning seasoned veterans like Joan Didion.
You’re lonely. Writing’s a lonely racket. And you want to find someone who will publish you. But you’ve picked the wrong target, missy. That Chain Bookstore Worker’s probably just doing her job, working close to minimum wage, and using any leverage she can get in the smiles department to get through the day, to deal with smug fucks like you, because she’s quasi-literate at best and she’d like to read more. But there’s that second job to get to.
The world, you see, isn’t all about you after all. And should you ever publish a book, I will photocopy your little satire and distribute it amongst workers at Barnes & Noble and Borders. I will watch as they move your book away from a prime spot in the new books section and into some poorly lit corner. Because chain bookstore clerks are people and they do read. And I will laugh my ass off.
[1/21/06 UPDATE: Sara Bauer, incidentally, never contributed another piece to McSweeney’s again, nor contributed anywhere else. The only trace that I can find of her online is Ths online petition. Presumably, she has become a busy student at Butler University. Perhaps it had something to do with McSweeney’s online move from letters to bulleted lists. Bauer’s piece, however, isn’t the only time where the mean-spirited streak of McSweeney’s revealed itself. But I do hope that this post helped Bauer realize that snotty, mean-spirited humor, particularly of an elitist and insensitive stripe, is the mark of a one-trick pony.]