McSweeney’s Newsletter Followup

We’ve just heard from an anonymous reader concerning “The Pearl Report,” the email newsletter that was apparently written by Paul Maliszewski. Again, if anyone has any additional leads on what content was featured within “The Pearl Report,” then we will certainly post them.

The reader writes:

Forgive the nom de plume but I’m avoiding the Wrath of Dave. In late 2001 I (and apparently a number of people whose names were culled from the McSweeney’s e list) began receiving, about two or three times a month, emails with the subject heading “The Pearl Report,” signed Allan Pearl. (This is the name of Eugene Levy’s character in “Waiting For Guffman” but I don’t know if that was the reference intended by “Pearl.”) The epistles purported to relate various gossipy tidbits, mostly about Tom Beller and the three Jonathans – Ames, Franzen, Lethem. (Though I think Chabon and maybe even Eggers figured in a few items.)

To give you an example – one item, as memory serves, alleged that J Lethem, tiring of the effort involved in signing a ltd edition in the late ’90s, rounded up a young, unknown friend of his named Colson Whitehead to forge his signature on the books, and that these forgeries could be identified by Whitehead’s having written a microscopic “CW” in the corner of each leaf in which he wrote Lethem’s name. (The joke may not be obvious to Dave but I can see it – such a book, thanks to its Whitehead connection, would be worth more than the usual ltd Lethem. But I suppose Lethem would have been unhappy about the allegation – since he’s the former rare-books specialist at Moe’s in Berkeley, this would indeed be rather a slur.) But more often the items were of the Tom-was-seen-with-Parker-the-other-night kind, rather harmless.

After several months of such hijinks, circa the spring of 2002, a young lady came up to Ames at a reading in darkest Brooklyn, informed him that she was “Pearl’s” ex-girlfriend, and spilled the beans. Ames told Dave. At which point Dave did the stuff that makes him so eminently qualified to replace the ‘zinger-man at the Holy Office, now that the dude’s moved on up.

After this all went down, I did some Googling for a while to see what turned up online, but there never was a thing. Such was life in the dim, dark days before litblogs. As to where the Pearl Reports could be found now – maybe the deepest, darkest recesses of the cast-aside laptops of the Jonathans could yield some answers.

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  1. Over at, one of the Pearl Reports actually materializes from the depths of a hard drive. (See the comments to the post on the Malisz/Chabon fracas.) It’s pretty much as I remembered ’em, except that the spelling was Allen Pearl, not Allan. Especially notable in this “report” are the quotes allegedly cut-and-pasted from Tom Beller’s communications, which are all orthographically correct. That should have tipped off any reader who’d ever seen one of Tom’s typo-ridden emails that the PR’s were not (and this is where Dave’s “blasphemous” remark comes in) the gospel truth.

  2. I was a recipient of some of the Allen Pearl updates, dubbed “The Pearl Files.” From what I can recall, a great number of the pruported gossip in these emails were humorous and obviously tongue in cheek stories about Pearl himself having an alcohol problem, his long and drawn out trouble with his wayward nephew, and what books he liked to read, but rarely had the gumption to finish.

    I can’t speak for anyone else who read the Pearl Files, but what I read I considered to obviously be fiction. The updates were written in a very storytelling-ish fashion that, to me, exposed them as being nothing more than silly fun on the part of whoever was coming up with the stories. The little updates were mostly about Pearl himself and contained far too much information about, for instance, the shabby state of his apartment to ever be construed as the actual work of a real gossip columnist. It sounded like a newsletter from Dame Edna.

    Not to sound like a person who bored by everything, but I really can’t see what the fuss is all about here. Maliszewski wrote an article that some people didn’t like, and then those people decided to damn him by trying to convince the reading population–and, sadly, initially succeeding–that Maliszewski was some sort of duplicitous evil-doer. The whole affair just seems so trivial. Especially after having read the Bookforum article and being unable to spot the libel.

    The actions of those other than Maliszewski are more offensive, in my opinion. If everyone in the world had the NYT at their disposal when they wanted to give the finger to someone they didn’t like, well, that would pretty much eliminate humans’ rights to having opinions, wouldn’t it?

    I pity the person who reviews Chabon’s or Eggers’ next book and happens to not like it. Expect a NYT piece on how the reviewer once bought a pair of really ugly pants and then wore them about town for everyone to see. Ah ha! Proof positive that this reviewer has bad taste and isn’t fit to express an opinion! In fact, the reviewer should no longer be allowed to wear pants, such is this person’s offense against the world of pants.

    For the record, I actually like the writing of both Eggers and Chabon. I should also point out that I’ve never met either one, so I am sure they might actually have very pleasant personalities. Judging from the speed and voracity of this smear campaign against Maliszewski, though, I’m not holding my breath that either Eggers or Chabon is worth the weight of his ego.

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