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Dramatic Reading of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Emails

On July 14, 2016, as part of an in-depth feature on Natalie Portman, The New York Times published an email exchange between Portman and the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer (inexplicably featuring many photos of Portman wearing scant clothing). Foer’s emails represented some of the strangest malaise ever expressed in a major American newspaper. In an effort to plunge into the tortured depths of Foer’s soul, I have recorded a dramatic reading of the emails, with the hope that this recording might help future generations make sense of the Foer predicament.

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Ocean Marketing: The Dramatic Reading

It began, as most forms of Internet frontier justice do, with a post that spurred outrage. Ocean Marketing, a firm that had promised to deliver an Avenger game controller before the Christmas holidays, failed to live up to its pledge. People did not get their controllers. There was an email exchange whereby aggrieved parties attempted to seek restitution with Ocean Marketing. But Ocean Marketing, failing to comprehend one time-honored maxim (‘The Customer is Always Right”), decided to get huffy about rectifying its mistakes, with the company’s representative becoming mind-numbingly arrogant when it came to the power of memes and the potential for serious screwups to create viral PR nightmares. The result was a public outcry and subsequent investigation that revealed even more astonishing sins, including plagiarism and phony charities.

In other words, the whole Ocean Marketing mess quickly became a veritable rabbit hole: a fascinating and time-consuming parable on how a representative’s poor conduct revealed a company’s true disgrace buried not especially deep beneath the dirt.

Others have done a commendable job of following this ongoing story. So in an effort to provide the appropriate journalistic context, I have performed several dramatic readings of the more snottier Ocean Marketing emails. I hope that my performances have appropriately represented the smarmy and self-serving behavior which galvanized this mighty electric storm. (Please note that I have replaced all instances of “LOL” with suitably melodramatic laughter.)

Ocean Marketing: Dramatic Reading #1 (Download MP3)

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Ocean Marketing: Dramatic Reading #2 (Download MP3)

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Ocean Marketing: Dramatic Reading #3 (Download MP3)

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The Bad Prose Reading Project #2 (“It Was Real Light”)

Back in February, I initiated the Bad Prose Reading Project — an effort to find new joy and meaning in prose that was truly atrocious. The joy and meaning would be delivered through audio dramatizations.

The idea behind the Project was to respond to a specific phenomenon that all readers know very well. Every now and then, you encounter prose so wonderfully preposterous that it feels quite a crime not to share it with other appreciative readers. Some confine this morbid pleasure to the Bad Sex in Fiction Award handed out yearly by the Literary Review. Others test their mincing mettle by contributing their own exemplars to the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest.

But the best bad prose isn’t always planned. It’s written and discovered by accident.

I had thought that The Bad Prose Reading Project would be a one-off. But then, on April 14, 2011, I discovered an extraordinarily awful specimen. It was so atrocious that it filled me with great delight! And as I read the words, I took further joy! When you listen to the recording, you will hear me go overboard near the end as I preach about “letting live and loving.”

As always, I won’t name the author, the story, or the novel that I’m reading. I feel this is fair to those who may judge the prose to be excellent. Needless to say, if I’m dramatizing it, it’s probably been published somewhere in the last few months. But that’s also part of the fun. Perhaps in dramatizing “bad” prose, the oral delivery may transform it into “good” prose because my dramatization is “bad.” Or perhaps I’m overthinking the experiment.

As always, I invite listeners to judge the results. The second installment of The Bad Prose Reading Project features the phrase “it was real light” and can be listened to below.

The Bad Prose Reading Project #2 (“It Was Real Light”) (Download MP3)

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The Bad Prose Reading Project #1 (“Disinterested Thrusting”)

Every now and then, you encounter prose so wonderfully preposterous that it feels quite a crime not to share it with other appreciative readers. Some, of course, confine this morbid pleasure to the Bad Sex in Fiction Award handed out yearly by the Literary Review. (How easy it is for us to confront bad prose when it’s being declared “bad” by an independent authority!) Others test their mincing mettle by contributing their own exemplars to the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest.

But as we all know, the best bad prose isn’t always planned. It’s written and discovered by accident.

With all these factors in mind, I offer The Bad Prose Reading Project, where I will be offering audio dramatizations of any bad prose I discover during my reading adventures.

During the course of these dramatizations, I won’t actually name the author, the story, or the novel that I’m reading. I feel this is fair to those who may judge the prose to be excellent. Needless to say, if I’m dramatizing it, it’s probably been published somewhere in the last few months. But that’s also part of the fun. Perhaps in dramatizing “bad” prose, the oral delivery may transform it into “good” prose because my dramatization is “bad.” Or perhaps I’m overthinking the experiment.

In any event, I invite listeners to judge the results. The first installment of The Bad Prose Reading Project features the phrase “disinterested thrusting” and can be listened to below.

Bad Prose Reading Project #1 (“Disinterested Thrusting”) (Download MP3)

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #11

This morning, I emailed a film critic attempting to clarify a recent misunderstanding in civil and reasonable terms. This film critic accused me of being unprofessional, yet, as I pointed out to him, threatening people on Twitter (“you better watch yourself. How fucking dare you call my film review ‘suspicious,'” he had tweeted at a time when most people are sleeping) hardly constituted a professional act. I informed this film critic that I didn’t hate him or his colleagues. Indeed, I still don’t. I will be happy to hug any of the offended parties at the earliest opportunity if it will assist them in civilly responding to the argument. Unsurprisingly, the film critic sent me back a hate mail.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of Carl Paladino. Or perhaps someone who differs from Carl Paladino. However inaccurate the voice, it seemed the right idea at the time.

I plan to continue reading any and all hate mail that arrives my way. And I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #11 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#10 A hate mail read in the style of Mel Gibson talking on the telephone
#9 A hate mail read in the style of Tennessee Williams
#8 A hate mail read in the style of Jimmy Stewart
#7 A hate mail read in the style of Glenn Beck
#6 A hate mail read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone
#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #10

Earlier in the day, I had emailed a “journalist” some off-the-record information — no specific quotes, just some key data that he might wish to investigate for a story. I believed that this information might be of help to him. Despite being clear to point out to the “journalist” that the email sent to him was “off the record” and that I could not divulge the specific quotes or the absolute specifics out of respect to my subject, the “journalist” violated my trust and posted the email anyway. I then telephoned the “journalist,” asking him to remove the post in a firm yet polite tone.

This “journalist” then emailed me an ALLCAPS email. Who sends emails in ALLCAPS anymore?

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of Mel Gibson talking on the telephone. The names have been changed.

I plan to continue reading any and all hate mail that arrives my way. And I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #10 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#9 A hate mail read in the style of Tennessee Williams
#8 A hate mail read in the style of Jimmy Stewart
#7 A hate mail read in the style of Glenn Beck
#6 A hate mail read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone
#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #9

A few days ago, a writer emailed me, hoping to be on The Bat Segundo Show. I responded quite politely, as I do with all those who pitch me directly — pointing out that the show was heavily booked. But if he wanted to send me his book for consideration, he was more than happy to. However, due to the fact that I receive more books than I can possibly read, I couldn’t promise anything. He responded.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of a Tennessee Williams protagonist.

While I realize the project has stagnated of late, I assure you that it is ongoing. I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #9 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#8 A hate mail read in the style of Jimmy Stewart
#7 A hate mail read in the style of Glenn Beck
#6 A hate mail read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone
#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #8

hatemail8A few hours ago, I learned that a notable writer wrote into The New York Post to express his disguised hatred for his ex-girlfriend.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of Jimmy Stewart.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #8 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#7 A hate mail read in the style of Glenn Beck
#6 A hate mail read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone
#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #7

hatemail7A few days ago, I learned that a former college friend, who had initiated contact with me, had transformed into an incoherent lunatic. My girlfriend has benignly suggested, based on the evidence I have presented to her, that this man was likely a lunatic all along. I’d prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. But one thing’s for sure. His email was loaded with hate, despite the fact that he claimed to be a peaceful optimist.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of FOX News’s Glenn Beck.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #7 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#6 A hate mail read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone
#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #6

hatemail6A few weeks ago, I learned that somebody had been pretending to be friendly with me for quite a long time. This person was uninterested in explicating feelings or having any rational point of reference. What mattered most to this person was hostility. As you will soon see, the email was ridiculously petty and obstinately worded.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of a Miss Manners schoolmarmish tone. During the course of my reading, not only did the email feel like a pointless lecture, but I began to wag my fingers midway through the delivery. I have spent most of the afternoon keeping my hands in a folded position to prevent such gestural mishaps from occurring. And should you find yourself uncontrollably pointing while you are listening to the file, I apologize in advance for any finger-related inconvenience.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #6 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#5 A hate mail read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon
#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #5

hatemail5A few days ago, somebody forwarded me an email. Apparently, someone had sent an angry email to the writer Jason Sanford, claiming that the writer Jason Sanford, despite writing fantasy and science fiction, was apparently ignorant of the genre. The name “Harlan Ellison” was evoked within the email, presumably to secure the maximum hatred possible.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail sent to the writer Jason Sanford, read in the style of Richard Milhous Nixon. During the course of my dramatic reading, I began to feel the overwhelming need to tape record all of my telephone conversations. Fortunately, this impulse passed once I had concluded the dramatic reading. I certainly hope that the writer Jason Sanford, as well as listeners, will excuse these dramaturgical explosions.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #5 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#4: A hate mail read in the style of a drunken Irishman.
#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #4

hatemail4A few days ago, somebody forwarded me an email. Apparently, someone had sent an angry email to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace, quibbling with certain fiction categories and forms of prose that the writer Sean Aden Lovelace used.

Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue.

The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail sent to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace, read in the style of a drunken Irishman. During the course of my dramatic reading, I began to crave beverages of an alcoholic nature, perhaps because the hate mail sent to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace proved very long and I began to become the character. This proved especially alarming, since it was very early in the morning. I have been informed by educated parties that this is what’s known as “sense memory” and that there is no need to alert any psychological authorities. I hope that listeners will forgive my occasional Irish asides, which were not included in the original email sent to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #4 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#3: A hate mail read in the style of a quiet sociopath
#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #3

hatemail3A few hours ago, a writer posted an email on the website HTML Giant. It appears that someone familiar with the writer Kyle Minor‘s work appears to have become hateful, due to certain words that the writer Kyle Minor uses within his fiction. Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail sent to the writer Kyle Minor, read in the style of a quiet socipath. I have also taken great care to send the writer Kyle Minor’s email to myself so that I could keep the “received in my inbox” aspect of the introduction true. I hope that sticklers for the authenticity of this series will permit me this slight digression.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #3 (Download MP3)

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Previous Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Installments:

#2: A hate mail read in a muted Peter Lorre impression
#1: A hate mail read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #2

hatemail2A few weeks ago, somebody forwarded me an email. The names have been changed, but it appears that someone grew especially hateful and oversensitive about how some organizer arranged an author reading. And so my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of this individual’s hate mail, read in a muted Peter Lorre impression that eventually mutated into Andy Serkis.

I plan to continue reading more hate mail. Again, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.)

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #2 (Download MP3)

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #1

hatemail1Last week, I learned that somebody really hated my guts. This person never actually told me why. So I sent this person an email with my phone number, inviting the person to give me a call and make amends through civil discourse. I received a most extraordinary response from this individual — one that has quite pleasantly inspired me to start a new audio series. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of this individual’s hate mail to me, read in a melodramatic, quasi-Shakespearean style.

I hope to start reading more of people’s hate mail. And if you like, I will be happy to read any specific hate mail that you’ve received. (If you do send me hate mail for potential dramatic readings, I only ask that you redact the names of the individuals.) And if there is enough demand, I may even start reading some of the really stupid emails I’ve sent over the years to various people.

Click any of the below links to listen.

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #1 (Download MP3)

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