Thoughts From a Real Writer

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with writer B.S. Napkin, a local writer who has published several books, including A Hose for Mr. Bigass and A Bend Near the Bottom. He claimed that he had been suckered out of the Nobel Prize because “the fuckers have a quota on authors who use their first two initials.” Mr. Napkin, a septuagenarian who lives in a rest home near the corner of Geary and Fillmore Streets, understands that his name does bear some resemblance to another writer‘s name and suggested to me that this unnamed author sent critic James Wood a check shortly after Mr. Napkin did, but that this other writer sent the higher bid and that Mr. Wood had abandoned his planned essay, essentially a scholarly series of encomiums, on Mr. Napkin’s work.

Understand that I found much of Mr. Napkin’s assertions quite strange and unfounded. Of course, I’ve seen writers freak out before. Some have even sobbed on my sleeve, suggesting that, as interviewer, I am a pro bono therapist. In fact, I was a bit astonished to receive a check last week from one author who seemed to open up to me the minute I asked him about his mother. I think he misunderstood me. I had asked about a “mother” who appeared in one of his novels. But I was, of course, all too happy to cash this unexpected windfall.

Irrespective of this, Mr. Napkin’s neuroses were cut of an altogether different and quite furious cloth. As I began to ask Mr. Napkin some serious questions about his work, he unleashed all manner of invective. The strange thing was that none of it had anything to do with his own work. Mr. Napkin’s veins quite literally bulged out of his temples as he talked with me. Had he not been busy knitting a sweater for his niece, he likely would have thrown his hands around my neck and strangled me. Anything, of course, to gain the attention of the press.

Shortly before telling me, “I will write no more!” while waving his arms frantically and confessing that a correspondent from Narcissist Quarterly was planning to talk with him right after I finished, Napkin confessed to me the following statements.

“Ernest Hemingway was actually an army of dwarves with a mean penis size smaller than Henry Kissinger’s,” he shrieked, saliva dripping from his mouth.

“Charles Dickens was the son of a motherless goat and really wanted to own a whorehouse. How else do you explain his obsession with the theatre? Such reprobates have no business writing novels.”

Napkin proved, however, to be quite complimentary towards the work of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (“a first-class swashbuckler”) and championed Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, insisting to me that Disraeli was a much better novelist than a politician — particularly in his younger years, when he was “flush with piss and vinegar.”

Other than these plaudits, however, Napkin had nothing positive to say about contemporary fiction and promptly asked one of the nurses to wheel him away.

I was a bit stunned that the interview had been cut so short. But at least I had a fantastic interview to unleash to the world.

Or so I thought. I had intended to reproduce Mr. Napkin’s words for an upcoming podcast, but unfortunately I accidentally erased the data.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it that B.S. Napkin is the angriest novelist alive, more indignant than those who have taken in Trinidad’s fruit. He will go to the grave bitter, furious and resentful — more so than any other writer in literary history. And so long as he lives, Napkin will find something at fault with even the very oxygen he breathes.


  1. I’m afraid you’ve got Naipaul all wrong, Ed. It’s all a case of misattribution, as he explained to a Guardian reporter back in 2001:

    “All the time, it’s false attribution, like Farrukh Dhondy on me sparring with James in 1950s London – it’s a fantasy… Please speak about these absurd things that are attributed to me. This comes of too many interviews. You know: monkey goes away and gets it all wrong, and no one corrects monkey.”

    (Forgive me for the question, since I’m not up to date on the UK newspaper business: do the “qualities” still employ monkeys for routine, repetitive tasks like Naipaul interviews?)

  2. Great piece, Ed.

    Clearly, every writer other than Napkin/Naipaul is a worthless hack who should go back to flipping burgers or cleaning toilets or whatever they were doing when they got their first book deal. After repaying their publishers the advances and royalties they never deserved in the first place, of course.

  3. Pete, I don’t think Naipaul has ever specified a field of employment for the writers he hates. You remind me, though, of a comment he made when I saw in Chicago a couple years back. He was talking about how literary studies at the university level should be abolished. “But what would they do?” he asked, thinking about literature professors. “Collect tickets on the bus?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *