An Open Letter to Sara Bauer

Dear Young Woman Who Writes Snotty and Unfunny Open Letters for McSweeney’s:

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.


Edward Champion

[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.]


  1. An Open Letter to Angry Blogger No. 3,657

    Dear Angry Blogger No. 3,657,

    From the moment I read your blog entry, I knew that you understood me. We are kindred spirits, you and I. For I too have vitriolic opinions about inane subjects. I too remember McSweeney’s when it used to be cool, and I too know that it is now cool to think that it’s not cool.

    I was so happy to see the way you deftly and righteously cut down this Sara Bauer, this scourge upon literature and society at large, this less than human thing who calls herself a Writer of Open Letters. It is a good thing that you have put her in her place, because there was nothing but menace in her action of writing a light satire for a literary magazine. She should be shunned. She should be cast out. She should be hunted and beaten and her lonely mutilated carcass should be hung from the trees. Because what she has done is unforgivable. What she has done is a horrible horrible thing.

    O the impudence. The audacity. To think that this Sara Bauer could believe that we would let her get away with writing a non-challenging character sketch about a stock figure of our society. Who does she think she is? Who does she think we are, we angry writers of ire on the internet, we pushers of unsolicited opinions, we voices of the morally hip? Does she take us for fools?

    She must…

    And for that, there can be no forgiveness.

  2. Having worked previously for one of them big chain book places, I liked Bauer’s piece for its recognizability. I didn’t really see in it the level of vitriol you seem to have seen. But clerks in those places don’t get to decide where to put the books, or anything, in the store. Everything is decided at “corporate”.
    I would’ve thought Bauer’s piece was amusing while I worked at Borders, as would most of my colleagues.
    I’m sure Ms. Bauer didn’t mean to make you so angry. You okay?

  3. Dear Dennis and Monk:

    Thank you for your comments. It pleases me beyond any predictable mot of floridity to see such astute minds reading my humble l’il blog. If I had my way, formal language and open letters would be the only methods of communication in the Western world, party invitations would be delivered by Pennyfarthing bicycle, litigous matters would be settled by pistols at dawn, and the destitute would be dunned with a chainsaw alternative. But then my dear Aunt Janis always told me that I was “a little quirky.”

    Many of your observations were remarkably accurate. But please allow me to clear up a few misconceptions.

    1. I am actually Angry Blogger No. 458. I registered with the Angry Bastards Society back in 1999, although I may have allowed my membership to lapse. Which may explain how Dennis came up with that number.

    2. My father was actually a clairvoyant. On a blustery August night in 1983, he closed his eyes and predicted the rise of Eggers and McSweeney’s in the 1990s. To protect me from what he referred to as “those inveterate Three’s Company-watching, self-referential pomofos,” every night, at the moment he ran out of his nightly six-pack of Hamm’s Beer, something very special happened. It became a ritual of sorts. A way for a father and son to bond. After the sixth beer was chugged and then flattened against his forehead, my father would then beat me with the end of the crumpled alumnimum and cry out, “McSweeney’s, motherfucker! McSweeney’s.” Good training. I grew to despise anything that sounded remotely like this word, including musicals involving demon barbers and those roasted cocktail weenies. And when McSweeney’s became a household name, the enmity was already in place.

    3. I’ve spoken with Ms. Bauer. She’s told me that she likes to get slapped across a satirical landscape. Not being a particularly violent man (given the history involving my father, I’m sure you can understand why), I had no idea what this meant. But she did tell me that at 7:34 PM, beginning on March 4, 2013, I would, for fifteen minutes, be hip to the Western world.

    Other than that, I think we’re in agreement.

    And, yes, monk, I’m okay. I’ve given myself a hug. So should we all.

  4. Reading is a skill, Eddie. If you had made it to the last paragraph, you would realize Ms. Bauer was upset with Young Chain Store Woman for hitting on her boyfriend, which explains her attitude and put-downs.

    Lighten up.


  5. People!!

    Most people don’t have a fucking clue what McSweeney’s is. I’d rather make love to my wife than discuss this any further.

  6. Ahhhh, mocking someone’s McSweeney’s piece using the kind of language used in the very publication one is mocking, only less funny by at least half. Pure genius!

  7. Having worked for one of them big book chain places, and accidentally stuck my nose half way up Timothy McSweeney’s arse when he slowed a half step, I can say I liked both Ms. Bauer’s piece and the arse for their recognizibility.

    Christ, the reflexive protection from criticism reminds me of Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Right.

    And I like Dave Eggers.

  8. Pete: You misspelled “homeless.”

    Roo: You’re right. I too would rather make love to your wife than discuss this further. But then that would involve overstepping ingrained ethics and disrupting what is undoubtedly a healthy marriage.

    Tom: Paris Hilton is completely involved in this mess. We haven’t even begun to discuss her involvement. The Open Letter from Paris Hilton to Sara Bauer’s Defamers will be appearing in McSweeney’s thirteenth issue. Paris Hilton will reveal that she too would rather make love to Roo’s wife. And take up cross-stitching.

  9. !!!

    Btw, I’ve sent an overly expensive FedEx package (their price breaks are… bizarre compared to the Post Office) your way. Expect it sometime this next week or whenever FedEx feels like delivering it.

  10. wow. what a ZING! you clearly had her number.

    So let me get this straight. you read McSweenys all the time, to lambast it for it’s not-cool-ness? Well, It’s not as cool, original, and hip as publishing a blog, but it has been around longer than your angry teenage hormones have.

    Well, you effectively took Sara to task for her publication in a literary journal. I can’t wait to see what you have to say about the dayton peace accords.

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