Questions for Plum Sykes

plumsykes.jpgYour new novel, “Bergdorf Blondes,” have created some disgraceful and unintentionally hilarious Q&A sessions which demonstrate that you are a Tina Brown in the making.

I have a new disease, which I’ve called glitteratitis. I want Bret Easton Ellis to use me as an object in his next novel, preferably as a footstool.

As a writer for Vogue, you have ideas, right?

I’m too beautiful to be concerned about the human condition.

You’ve used “blonde” as a verb and every time you open your mouth, people have been actually lost brain cells listening to you.

You’ve got to keep the English language fun. Have you ever known an English teacher aware of this season’s fashion designs? I haven’t. Perhaps if these teachers paid attention to the way they dressed, English classes wouldn’t be so square.

How can you justify writing a book about these kinds of women with all that is going on the world?

After 9/11, I finally had the excuse I needed to open up my secret stash of candy. And I thought to myself that Jonathan Franzen needed to write a history of candy rather than these long novels about human behavior. He made my head hurt. Who really wants to pay attention to that sort of thing? This age is about comfort and self-entitlement. If you look at this lady with the cigarette in her mouth, she’s simply not in fashion. And besides, we have cheerier photos at Vogue.

What did you study at Oxford?

I wrote my thesis on the frizzy hair movement of the 1970s, drawing particular attention to the Farrah Fawcett feathering movement. It was well received.

P.T. Barnum once said, “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public.” Would you say that you could apply this to being born in London?

How brilliant. Can you pick up lunch?

“Dagger of the Mind” — Allegory for 2004 America


DR. ADAMS: “Now Captain Kirk is going to have a complete demonstration. I want there to be no doubts whatever in his mind.”

KIRK: “Mmmmm.”

dagger2.jpegDR. ADAMS: “You’re madly in love with Helen, Captain. You’d lie, cheat, steal for her, sacrifice your career, your reputation.”

HELEN: “No, Doctor! No!”

DR. ADAMS: “The pain — do you feel it, Captain? You must have her, or the pain grows worse, the pain, the longing for her.”

KIRK: “Helen.”

DR. ADAMS: “For years, you’ve loved her, Captain, for years.”

KIRK: “For years, I’ve loved you.”

DR. ADAMS: “You must continue to remember that, Captain. And now…she’s gone.”

dagger.jpg[The mind machine is turned up to a dizzying level.]

KIRK: “Helen! Helen, don’t go! I need you, Helen!”

DR. ADAMS: “Now, Captain…you must take your phaser weapon and drop it to the floor. Captain, the pain increases unless you obey me.”

KIRK: “I…must…drop it.”

[KIRK drops phaser.]

DR. ADAMS: “Very good, Captain. Very good indeed. And now your communicator. Drop it to the floor.”

[KIRK desperately flips open communicator.]

KIRK: “Kirk to Enterprise.”

[The mind machine is amped up further.]

KIRK: “Uhhhhhhhhhh! Kirk…to…Enterprise. Ahhhhhhhh!”

HELEN: [shrieking] “No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

[KIRK laughs maniacally in pain/torture/confusion, as camera fades out to commercial break.]


A Day in the Goddam Life (with apologies to Lenin and all other despicable leftists who object to modifiers like “goddam”), a new feature that will run periodically on Return of the Reluctant, follows local residents through their daily routines. But rather than dwell upon the obvious success stories, it is this publication’s hope to profile those who do not have the security blanket of an expendable income. The first installment is about Horace Krum, an aspiring writer living in poverty. Mr. Krum doesn’t enjoy being used as a yardstick, and we suspect that this is one of many reasons why he’s been denied his fame and fortune. That’s exactly why this profile is “about Horace Krum,” the same way that the average penis pump owner’s John Thomas is “about two inches” or a typical shitstorm from the Weinstein brothers is “about 7.4 on the Richter scale.”

For eight years, Krum hasn’t received a single notice from the public. He spent much of that time ingratiating himself with the affluent. He courted rich heiresses. He gardened several homes, often pruning the shears with his shirt off. Krum, however, didn’t quite have the upper body development that bored rich ladies are bound to notice. So he tried his hand at love letters. Alas, poor Krum was terrible here too.

Eight years of toiling for the attentions of some noble benefactress and eight years of writing stories. For eight years, Krum tried to be noticed. He received boiler plate letter after boiler plate letter: “Dear Ms. Krum: Thank you for submitting your story. Unfortunately, it does not suit our magazine’s needs at the present time. Please don’t send anything more to us. Ever. Frankly, you suck. Cordially, Tiny Tim Tender, Production Intern.”

Which is why our intrepid reporter followed Horace Krum for a day. What’s it like to live the life of a failed writer?

8:30 a.m. We meet in Horace Krum’s studio apartment, which he shares with his roommate Biff. The apartment’s located in a tenement. Krum sleeps in a closet, which allows him to save about $100 a month on rent. Biff, who introduces himself as a gentleman fond of “personal space,” tells us “to get the hell out.” Krum collects two suitcases: one containing his typewriter, the other containing things to work on.

Krum tells me that he’s trying to whip himself into shape. He tells me that it’s important for all writers to have a physique honed by Nautilus, because the book world has become increasingly reliant upon “sexy, fuckable authors” that they can send out on book tours. Unfortunately, Krum can’t afford a gym membership. So we end up jogging together in Krum’s neighborhood. Our tennis shoes crunch down on crack vials. We nearly run into a vagrant’s shopping cart taking up the whole of the sidewalk. And, about five minutes into the exercise, we are both mugged.

This is particularly unfortunate for Krum, because he had $200 in his wallet. This was much needed cash. Krum had sold his beloved collection of first edition O. Henrys, so that he could make this month’s rent. A hard decision, but he needed to keep a roof over his head. But Krum remains optimistic. He tells me he’s sent four stories out this week. One of his stories, “They Had Brunch at Denny’s,” is 6,000 words. Krum has high hopes for this one. He’s submitted it to Waverley Wonders, a small literary magazine that pays 4 cents a word. That’s $240 before quarterly taxes.

10:30 a.m. We return to Krum’s apartment. Biff is gone. He’s headed off to his job as a butcher. I notice that the wallpaper is peeling. Krum quickly flattens down the wallpaper. He shows me a thick file filled with rejection notices, all of them from this year. Most of them are bad photocopies. Some include marked up copies of Krum’s stories. I find one which reads, “Unbelievable! Have you ever slept with a woman?” “And that was really odd,” Krum tells me, “because that was a coming-of-age tale involving two boys.”

I point out to Krum that Waverley Wonders hasn’t published a story longer than 2,000 words in its entire run. “Oh, they will,” winks Krum. “Just you wait.”

11:00 a.m. Krum usually writes between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Except today, because he knows that I plan on buying him lunch. He needs to be done before Biff comes home. Aside from short stories and essays, Krum’s also “messing with a romance novel, partly historical, set in Larry Ellison’s home.” He writes his stories on a typewriter because he cannot afford a computer. He steals paper from a local Kinko’s. This is because he has a friend who works there, who hates the job, and wants to “stick it to the man.”

“How often do you eat?” I ask. Krum opens two doors of a cupboard. One of the doors falls off its hinges. Inside the cupboard are endless packages of Top Ramen. He gets these at Costco.

Krum has been lucky enough to be invited to a few poetry readings. And he attends these because he can count on free hors d’oeurves, which provide additional sustenance. This diet hasn’t boded well for Krum’s digestive tract. But Krum tells me he’s kept up his energy, thanks to the additional additives in the tap water.

12:00 p.m. I take Krum to Chevy’s, largely because Krum’s keen on the calories he can get from the endless chips. He orders three margaritas and eats four enchiladas. He begins to slur his words and bemoans “that muddafugga Biff.” He then declares himself a genius and tells me that New York will never understand. I point out that he’s still writing and sending his stories out regularly. He then apologizes to me for being an ass. He hasn’t been able to afford the luxury of liquor for a long time.

1:00 p.m. Back at Krum’s apartment, I ask Krum if he has a girlfriend. He dodges the question, pointing out that he used to enjoy cooking, back in the days that he had a day job. “I haven’t cooked anything in years,” he laughs. “Haven’t been able to afford even the basic staples. Man, can you imagine the kind of food that Larry Ellison could afford?”

2:15 p.m. Krum kicks me out of his apartment. It must be the margaritas, but I think it also has something to do with cutting into Krum’s writing time. I walk away with growing respect for Krum, a man with almost no resources trying to crack a cruel industry. Perhaps someday, the world will appreciate a man like Horace Krum. That is, if he doesn’t die of starvation first.

Monday Morning Boiler Plate Blog Entry

We [drank too much]/[had too many personal fiascos]/[raped a small poodle] over the weekend. It was an experience that [left us intellectually lacking]/[has us pondering __________]/[pairing our argyles]. [Not that you would know anything about that]/[I’m sure you understand our pain]. Expect our return [next week]/[tomorrow]/[at some unspecified time]/[never], when we’ve [fully recovered]/[possessed of less self-loathing]/[prepared to eviscerate another Laura Miller column] and [visit some of the other fine folks on the [left]/[right]]/[get out of the house yourself]/[email us naked photos of yourself]. [Or not.]

Not that we’re [giving blood]/[holing up in a motel room with a .44 and a smile]/[raping another small poodle] ourselves.

Remarks from the President

The crazed Dean speech was one thing, but I’m starting to have grave concerns about the President. Here’s a partial transcript:

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Plenty O’ Ribs Cafe
Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico

11:25 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs, goddammit.

Q: Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: Shut the fuck up, you gadfly. I’m hungry and I’m going to order some ribs, Laura be damned. I ran six miles today and eviscerated the Bill of Rights a little more. I earned my ribs, don’t you think?

Q: What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you think I’d like? Ribs. What does a man do in a cafe but order ribs? Do you have any real questions?

Q: Sir, on homeland security, critics say you simply haven’t spent enough to keep this country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to dry hump this nation. I’m riding bareback, my friend. Who cares about jobs? Who cares about the economy? Who gives a flying fuck about the deficit? We need a space program resembling a really bad Brian De Palma film. But right now I’m here to take somebody’s order. That would be you, Rubber Band Man — what would you like? Stop pestering me with questions and start eating, son. You’re looking a bit thin. Have you been drinking? I drank once, but then daddy bailed me out. Put some of that meager money on the table like a man. This is all about consumer confidence. I don’t care how little they pay you over at the State-Ledger. This is how the economy grows. Max out your credit cards, jeopardize the state budgets. It drives the economy forward. And, no, don’t quote Paul Krugman, you twerp. I’ve had enough of that whiny little bitch. So what would you like to eat?

Q: Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m ordering ribs, goddammit. Do you know about unilateral decisions? Well, this is how it works, David, I’m going to order a rib for you and you’re going to eat it. And I’m not going to leave until you nibble that sucker down to the bone.

Q: But, Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT: No buts, David. This isn’t a press conference. This is about understanding how ribs work. It’s a bad metaphor, but I’m not leaving until you understand it, son. Do you hear?

The Kookysolo Manifesto

Sasha Cagen’s book, Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, is now ranked 436 at Amazon. But I must take umbrage with Ms. Cagen’s success. I fear that Ms. Cagen has plagiarized me. Back in April 1997, I wrote a piece for Motherfuckin’ Angry Motherfucker, a zine assembled by a staff of one at Kinko’s with a modest circulation of 42. I’ve contacted my attorney about this and he’s informed me that a little bit of public exposure may help my case. I’ve also obtained permission from the editors of Motherfuckin’ Angry Motherfucker to reprint my piece, “The Kookysolo Manifesto,” in full on this website. There are, of course, certain similarities between the two catchphrases “quirkyalone” and “kookysolo.” However, I wish to assure my readers that this was simply an essay whipped up in the course of a drunken evening. If I had known that “kookysolo” had appeal, I would have cashed in the same way that Ms. Cagen has. Of course, there are also subtle differences between our respective philosophies. But I leave the readers to judge the results (and Ms. Cagen’s possible theft) for themselves.

People Like Us: The Kookysolos
by Edward Champion

I am, perhaps, what you may call a man who masturbates frequently. Relationships are like nectar from the gods. They happen, but perhaps only once in a blue moon. For years, I’ve wondered if I should check into a clinic or get a liposuction. But, of course, that would be a betrayal. Why would I desire to be one of those ironies that grace the magazine covers? The Meg Ryan type cast in repeated roles that involve a concept as believable as a government that never lies: the absolutely gorgeous young woman who can’t seem to find Mr. Right or so much as a date with a fine young stallion.

The morning after New Year’s Eve (another hangover in bed alone, another year minus a good afterglow) I was standing in the San Francisco air when I realized that I needed one of two things: a good lay or a cup of coffee. I settled for the coffee, since getting the good lay involved an endeavor more intricate and demanding than getting a Ph.D. At least if I wanted something immediate. I drank three double lattes, just to be sure that I was awake, and began rambling incohrently to the guy behind the counter, who was also suffering from a hangover. “I’ve got it!” I exclaimed. “Kookysolo.” Needless to say, I was 86ed from the cafe. My picture hangs on the wall.

But I knew that I had something with this kookysolo thing. It was clear to me that not only was this a term that could stick with the socially inert, but that it could be used as an excuse for those people who are afraid to introduce themselves or to give their fellow humans the benefit of the doubt. Gravitating towards the kookysolo label would allow people a justification for their own self-pity, those people who watch Love Connection or Blind Date in the dark.

We are the puzzle pieces who never actually throw themselves into the box. We inhabit singledom as our natural capitulating state. In a world where most people have no problem living up to John Donne’s idea that no man is an island, we are, by force of our convictions, our abrasive personalities, and our failure to remember first names, hopelessly antisocial.

Yet make no mistake: We are no less concerned with making an effort to ask someone out on a date, whether we be male or female. We do not have the courage to voice our interests in someone. Secretly, we are romantics, but romantics who are terrified of putting ourselves out there or giving a stranger a chance. We want a miracle. We want someone to somehow perceive our terrifying inability to interact and do the work for us. And in this quest, which is no different from plopping onto the couch with the remote control rather than getting out into the world, we are our own worst enemies.

For the kookysolo, the world is a terrifying place of axe-murderers and rapists behind every corner. We cannot conceive of the possibility of failure and when it does happen, as it does all too frequently, we remain convinced that the world is out to get us. Thus, we go home and watch television and drown ourselves in a bottle of wine rather than pick ourselves up and accept that, yes, one day, a nifty soulmate will be there, so long as we keep plugging away. We kookysolos have become so hopelessly placated by our 57 channels of cable and the number of beverages in a convenience store that we’re surprised that the same principles cannot be applied to relationships.

By the same token, being alone is understood as a way to reinforce these terrible impulses, to be considerably more hindered by our fears. Our weekends are full of intricate rituals. Lots of potato chips and television and vodka. Even if we do find the fortitude to go on a date, we’re terrified by the prospect of wrapping our arms around our date just to see how it feels. Because we go into the thing assuming the worst.

And so, a community of kookysolos is essential.

Since people like us eventually hit a point where we’re willing to throw in the towel, it becomes essential to get together with other kookysolos and have pity parties. Support groups are just the tip of the iceberg. We need manifestos. We need self-help books that are modeled exclusively on half-baked theories rather than science. We are a demographic that will always buy these books. Because, dammit, it’s something we can reach for in the hermetically sealed comfort of our own home. It’s something that confirms what’s destructive to us.

But if this is what it means to live, then you can count me out. Because probably the worst thing that can happen is when one kookysolo hooks up with another kookysolo, and the two of them kvetch endlessly about their own fears and limitations. Bonding based on crippling negativity is a recipe for chaos. If the relationship survives, it will be quilted in emotionally clingy fabric, which is healthy for neither party. But chances are more likely that it will end badly, and it will further terrify both kookysolos into avoiding relationships.

The earth will quake if anyone, en masse, actually believes that being kookysolo is a good idea.

A Special Column by Laura Miller

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Miguel Cohen is unwell this week. He reports that he Super-Sized his McDonalds meal by mistake. He believes he’s suffering from mad cow disease. I asked Miguel what increasing the size of his fries and drink had to do with beef. He replied, “You just don’t know, man.” While the doctors investigate Miguel’s condition, Laura Miller has agreed to fill Miguel’s shoes with a special exclusive.]

Columnist’s block, like a bad heroin habit, is a subject of lackluster interest to those who are capable of filing a column that actually includes a few nifty ideas and a great annoyance to me personally. It differs somewhat from writer’s block in that the columnist is faced with the prospect of sounding important, because the columnist must keep her job, even when she really doesn’t know the audience she’s writing for. “To hell with filing the article,” once said Jayson Blair to a friend, “let’s go get sushi and not pay. I’ll make the shit up as it comes along.” Well, we all know what happened to him. At least the writer has talent, whereas the lofty book columnist is often a windbag who cannot grasp so much as a whit of the typical book enthusiast’s mind. The columnist does not understand that most people do not give a damn when she writes in a smug, highfalutin tone and that, if they do, they’re generally reading the New York Times Book Review with their pants draped around their ankles while on the john and have every intention of using the back page as a clever substitute for something I cannot mention in a family newspaper. Either that or they’re a unique form of starfucker, pining for a Salon gig, or they’re wise enough to keep their trap shut. If you complain of not being able to write a column, you might be openly mocked in the book community (though never to the columnist’s face) or even satirized on a blog.

Marilyn T. Chambers, star of Behind the Green Door, wouldn’t dare to write a book column unless she had some inkling of what she was talking about. Nevertheless, you can see how important I sound because I referenced a figure whom you may or may not have heard of. The brilliance of including Chambers in this paragraph is that I can spell out her credentials (i.e., Chambers starred in a piece of smut called Behind the Green Door, in case you didn’t catch that fact the first time) and somehow get through Chip McGrath’s filter. Chambers is intrigued by the neurological dimensions of faking orgasms in general, not because she has endured columnist’s block (although, if she were a columnist, we might say that she has) but because she has gone through episodes of something not dissimilar: she sings for her supper. We might call this avocational condition “whoring.”

Just how much whoring is too much remains a tricky question. Mata Hari, who was a sharp cookie who liked to dance, and who found herself gyrating obsessively (giving the columnist redundant clauses with which to increase word count), explains, “The dance is a poem of which every movement is a word.” Scientists studying the effects of logorrhea, which is what might happen if you were to apply a certain rectal condition to words (i.e., this column), tested for it by asking columnists for columns describing their state of health. Most responded with columns that were too long: the shortest at around 6,000 words. Some scientists resigned from the project immediately. A few collapsed, reporting that they could not read a newspaper column for several years, after being exposed to such limitless verbosity. The handful of scientists left standing asked, “What the hell does any of this have to do with Mata Hari and dancing?” In fact, an early draft of this column was so bad that the folks at the copy desk pined for another David Brooks column. If you’re a prolific popular columnist (or you think you are) like me, you can delude yourself into thinking that you’re better than those groundlings making wisecracks, or those people who have a sense of humor that you lack. Writing a worthless column is an art, albeit a low one, beyond reproach, that comes out painfully. You may not realize this, but my life is in shambles. Of course, if I admitted anything human like that, then perhaps the perceptions would shift. If I suggested in any real way that I was passionate about books, then you might love me the same way you love Michiko. But allow me this small metaphor, for I am not inured to rejection notices the way that most of you may be. I have not written a novel and I don’t have Michiko’s Pulitzer, but I am a columnist. And I have an airtight gig. I want to keep my job. You like me, right?

A little snark or playful banter is easy to mistake for something serious. I’m not quite sure where I was going with the Mata Hari reference. And I don’t know what I was thinking when I mentioned Marilyn Chambers. But perhaps I can offer a scientific hypothesis that will get us back to the main.

In 2003, many of the book blogs, reading the New York Times Book Review because they liked books and they liked Chip, noticed from time to time that one columnist was full of shit. In other words, too much of a grand gig (i.e., writing for the New York Times), as well as too little (i.e., anything written for Salon), can trigger columnist’s block, and this explains why “the bigger the lack of passion, the bigger the block.” Lewis H. Lapham writes the same damn column every Harper’s, but at least he is a harmless enough crank. Lapham may be one-note. He may have a testosterone that doesn’t quit, but he has a passion and a sense of humor. So it was something of a shock to see him writing about George Plimpton this month. Apparently, someone at Harper’s finally got around to telling him that his blustery assaults on Bush were maiming small children in Ecuador.

A friend of mine (yes, I have friends) once invented a “cure” for this condition: to counteract a series of humorless columns, create something more humorless. Think up a bland, banal subject — something like columnist’s block or covering a book that you’re inclined to hate from the first page — and expend 1,000 words on it. In your mind invest it with such life-defining importance that your entire journalistic career hinges upon this one central silly thing. You must take a topic that no reasonable person would waste a paragraph on and approach it as if it were some truly important ideal, something as important as the Federalist Papers, something as pivotal to this planet as carbon.

Blocked or not, columnists have been disappointingly unimaginative in their responses to columnist’s block. One exception is the tiny literary genre of book columns on the back page of the New York Times Book Review. No, not those cutesy cartoons. Hint hint. I know of only one worthwhile columnist who I can read even when I know she is suffering from columnist’s block. In fact, you may not know this, but I have assembled a small chapbook which features this columnist’s ouevre. It reflects, I believe, the highest pinnacle of columnist’s block. Such useless credos as “you have to live” before you write are pure poppycock, because any real columnist knows that she can bluff her way through anything. Particularly when the columnist has failed to live and cannot crack so much as a smile. Whatever tortures the reader must bear, that makes it art in my book.

Your Brain’s Guide to a Safe New Year

Today, please adjust the settings in your mind, as follows:

4:00 PM: Yearly Self-Diagnostic. Run defrag program. Check for viruses. Finish organizing and prioritizing memories of 2003 events.

5:17 PM: Finish Kith and Kin Telephonic Check-In program.

7:22 PM: Register 2004 New Year Resolutions with CPU.

8:42 PM: Determine whether Body Unit intends to drink. If blood-alcohol levels = unmanagable, then capitulate keys to Sober Mind Obligated to Protect Other Body Units.

9:06 PM: Kiss Long-Term Companion Unit, listen to L-TCU’s last thoughts and resolutions.

10:34 PM: If 2003 New Year Resolution = Program Not Executed in 2003, Then 2003 New Year Resolution = 2004 New Year Resolution. Don’t worry. Other Body Units and CPUS will probably forget, particularly OBU (Quite Inebriated) types.

11:22 PM: Exchange 2004 New Year Resolutions with OBUs and L-TCU.

11:46 PM: Obtain champagne.

11:50 PM: Last-minute Kith and Kin Telephonic Check-Ins.

11:54 PM: Find L-TCU or L-TCU (Potential).

11:56 PM: If L-TCU (Current) or L-TCU (Potential) Does Not = Hand (Champagne), then obtain champagne. L-TCU (Not Champagne) = L-TCU (Champagne).

12:00 AM: If one second before Turn of the Year Announcer = Mouth (“One”), then when Turn of the Year Announcer = Mouth (Null) or Turn of the Year Announcer = Mouth (“Happy New Year”), Your Mouth (“Happy New Year”). Kiss with L-TCU optional, though with obvious advantages for both CPUs.

General Program Notes: If L-TCU = Unavailable, don’t worry. This is the result of Propaganda (New Year’s) running in several OPU’s CPUs. Propaganda (New Year’s) was a virus authored long ago by some bored fifteen year old punk. Disregard all conversational facets pertaining to this and be sure that CPU = Happy, if L-TCU = Unavailable. See General L-TCU Maxim for more information (i.e., CPU = Not Happy continues L-TCU=Unavailable condition, CPU=Happy, and CPU=Confident and Listening, improves likelihood of L-TCU=Available condition, though timing of new variable impossible to predict).

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,

Literary Grandson to Launch Unexpected Career

mailerbaby.jpgIn response to the recent news that 25 year old John Buffalo Mailer, the youngest child of Norman Mailer, will be taken over the reins of High Times, Return of the Reluctant has learned that Ishmael Harris Bellow, the illegitimate grandson of novelist Saul Bellow (and little-known son of Adam Bellow), age 2, will become editor-in-chief of Playboy Magazine.

“We needed credibility,” said original founder Hugh Hefner. “Someone in touch with the next generation’s tastes.”

The decision to hire Bellow came hot on the heels of other noted family involvements (Drew Barrymore’s mom and Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister, to name two pictorial collaborations). Magazine insiders report that the Bellow decision, not unlike the Mailer hire, is nothing less than a desperate attempt to boost sales of a magazine that has lost its cultural relevance.

“Hugh Hefner is the worst publisher of his generation,” said Dale Peck, who then declared Playboy “homophobic” because it had refused to publish his stories.

“Goo goo ga!” replied Bellow, who then demanded to be burped and had two unpaid editorial interns close the door to his spacious Manhattan office.

If Rick Moody Described Paris Hilton

parishilton.jpegThe testicles are housed in a ruddy shaking sac barely filtered through hazy colors, Rick Saloman’s, his driving impetus, his force, his motive power, behind a cylindrical-shaped piston engine for all the purveyors and preeners and panderers and patronizers of cheap thrills to see, to download it across networks, to hear her bored moans, the dynamic phallus that drives the basest, perhaps the easiest, of human emotions, vaguely limp, sore after repeated use but still well on the way to repeated ejaculation, if only we had the whole tape, just below an unsightly gorbelly (if it is so; it’s hard to see) that may frighten cocker spaniels, premonitory and intransigent efforts, again and again into the orifice of a tawny wild-child from the rear, just this side of adulthood, a tattoo somewhere above the repeated point of entry, richness here against the smooth pure color of white sheets, coverlets and counterpanes placed down by the maid, what might she be thinking the next morning, sent through a powerful machine known to clean linen, silk, rayon, 100% all-purpose cotton, of hues of lapis lazuli, of chartreuse, of Day-Glo colors forgotten, the colors and shades and dark spasms of hotel and motel rooms from one side of the nation to another — but in this case, white, pure as snow, angelic, the color of America’s angel, again flattened hard, against the bed, her hands possibly clutching the comforter to humor Rick (and me, for my own priapism occurs as I write this sentence); moments later, a machine that this recherche City of Love (in name only) may inherit someday, if she breaks this curse that she should be ashamed of, if only people didn’t want to see a rich kid transform overnight into a soft-porn starlet, if only there was more to write about — but, no, I won the Guggenheim. What would Billy Faulkner have to say? He might have needed something else to download, if you catch my drift.