Letter from the Editor [of a Stuffy Literary Review]
My dearest and faithful readers,
As you may or may not have heard somewhere along the rotting stems of the grapevine, the on-again, off-again feud between myself and my brother-in-law/slightly-less-than formidable essayist Marshall Coward has now been declared on, again. Fortunately my staff is more than prepared for any onslaught with a magazine’s worth of sarcastic jabs and passive-aggressive snubs that they arm behind a human shield of dedicated female interns. For those who are unpleasantly out of the loop of the circumstances in which I am placed, allow me to turn your unpleasant unawareness into a pleasant one. An awareness that is.
It seems as though it was yesterday when Marshall shattered the peace of my morning coffee and proofreading by way of leaving at least 45 (give or take, mostly give though, I’m sure) voicemails that range from snarky to terse and topped off by near-bellicose with a side of sexual innuendo concerning a not possible, but definite and gushingly positive review of his debut book of essays, Indeed: Essays which by all accounts was getting some rather glowing press in such journalistic outlets of the brownstone jetsetters as The New Yorker, The New York Times Review of Books and (the only good review by a critic who was not friends with Marshall at Bard) Norman Mailer in Vanity Fair, which does not say much about the book and says even less of Norman Mailer.
Since we were family I agreed to take the book and assign it to a critic. But since I was not from Bard, let alone a friend there was only one person I could give it to and if you haven’t guessed already it was none other than Stone Jerome himself. Jerome, the possibly bipolar recluse who only contacts another living, breathing human being when he has something scathing to say, did his finest work in the shred-tearing of Indeed: Essays.
My imagination flares every time I ponder the kind of rage that washed over old Marshall’s poor, pale visage. Surprisingly he took it out on Jerome. Clearly Marshall had never used the middle stall in the Algonquin Hotel men’s room in which Gloria Steinem wrote “Never fuck with Stone Jerome!” in purple nail polish on the side wall. He wouldn’t have been the first to disregard that crucial edict; it’s what made Faulkner’s acceptance of the Nobel a matter of life and death. Needless to say Marshall’s life was a Pulitzer-less living hell.
It was only a matter of time until Marshall would eavesdrop on enough cocktail and club sandwich banter to find out that the review was just a bitter (and I admit somewhat unethical, but no doubt amusing) ruse for being — and do pardon me for saying this so bluntly — an arrogant prick. Hence it was also only a matter of time until Marshall would retaliate, and bitterly at that. What I ended up doing was essentially blowing a dam apart, and what would flush out of it would be a constant, ribcage-pulverizing stream of angry essays about how poor an editor I am, even going so far as to examine almost every article I oversaw in college as the paper copy editor and nitpick every mistake. It didn’t work. My lack of attention to detail in text is just as legendary in the lit game as Marshall’s non-existent sense of humor and easily damaged ego. So damaged that the essays (a total of six) were merely rough drafts and ironically barely proofread. Win-win situation for me.
This kind of behavior has persisted between us for a few years now. In Marshall’s last two books, Quiet So: Essays and Heretofore: Essays, this magazine has served as the thorn in his side and some are now catching on that it is deservedly so. It’s not long that the brownstone jetsetters can tolerate the witty jib-jabbing about lost loves and one night stands from college and family reunions or the ill-informed, ambiguous but nonetheless witty political piece that was accepted into The National Review as a last resort. And we mustn’t neglect the token ironic tribute to the working class joe trying to save money so his daughter can go to med school in the unlikely event that her scholarship would fall through and the token essay on how Neo-Nazis are silly little people in funny clothes. Not to mention that the same essay on trying to buy George Plimpton’s gold-plated yacht appears in all three books but with a new run-on sentence added on each time!
So fair readers, feel free to brace yourselves for an oncoming conflict that shall surely be so intense that no one will even read anymore as the hype and hot gossip surrounding our bout will only distract from such leisurely activities. Plus we will no doubt be launching books at one another left and right.
Dashiell Chandler Vales
Editor-in-Chief, St. Somewhere Evening Review
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