Gabe Hudson’s book of fiction, Dear Mr. President, was recently published by Knopf.
Deborah Treisman is the Fiction Editor at The New Yorker.
Read Part One.
Q: Have you sent a copy of the book to its addressee?
Hudson: Yes. We sent one of the first copies to the President at the White House.
Q: Have you received a response?
Hudson: Yeah, I got a letter back from President Bush. It came to my studio. I couldn’t believe it.
Q: What were you thinking when you saw it?
Hudson: At first I thought it was a joke. But, one thing I can say for sure, when you have a letter from the President you know you have a letter from the President. The stationery alone is intimidating. It’s a weirdly terrifying letter to have in your hands.
Q: Are you telling the truth about this? I have to say, you haven’t always been completely honest with the reading public.
Hudson: It’s true, I have done some strange stuff in the past, but I will say on my behalf, there was always a point to that stuff. I was always trying to make people think about something. This one is true, though, and I honestly wish it wasn’t. It’s all kind of eerie. I mean, we have a website for the book, and the government’s been tracking it. There’s a device on the website that tells us who’s been coming to it. We even had a FBI agent lurking around at my recent readings. Also, other little things have been happening. Like the website keeps crashing for no good reason. And each time, my friend, who does everything with the site and who’s really good at this stuff, has had to work many, many hours before he could get the site back up. He says whoever is causing this has pretty major skills.
Q: So what did the President say in the letter?
Hudson: Well, he said that my book was “unpatriotic” and “ridiculous.”
Q: Anything else?
Hudson: He said that my book was “just plain bad writing.”
Q: How did that make you feel?
Hudson: It hurt. A lot. I mean I worked really hard on this book, and took a lot of risks along the way to make it happen. And I’ll admit I got a little scared. But then eventually I got indignant. I mean, it’s hard enough being a fiction writer in the world. And there are issues of freedom of speech at stake here, especially regarding what’s patriotic and what’s not. Like I said, in my opinion, to voice one’s opinion and to question the status quo, that’s what I call patriotic. So the last thing I need is the President coming down hard on my book.
Q: Where’s the letter now?
Hudson: There are several publications that are eager to publish it, but we’re still looking for the right one. In the meantime, we’ve locked it away in a very secure place. I’ll be reading excerpts from the letter at the Washington stop on my tour.
Q: Is Bush coming to that reading?
Hudson: I sent him an invite, so we’ll see.
Q: You mentioned something about a contest you’re holding.
Hudson: Yeah. It’s called the “Dear Mr. President Contest” and it’s at Gabehudson.com. The premise is simple: we’re asking people to write letters into the President, using this function we’ve set up on the site. The letters automatically get cc’d to me. In the last weeks we’ve suddenly been getting lots of letters. I think the kind people at McSweeney’s are going to post these letters on this site somewhere, under the link: Dear Mr. President Letters, or something like that. Each Tuesday I’ll pick the best letter sent to the President and post it on the site, and the winner will receive a signed copy of my book, as well as a copy of the letter the President sent me. But this isn’t necessarily about winning anything. I encourage you all to write to the President, because he works for you. People need to be heard, and when you send in your letter make sure to sign your name with your occupation underneath. Tell the President whatever you want, it doesn’t need to be a political diatribe. It doesn’t need to be about war either, though war is a very, very good subject. Mix it up. Tell the President about your kids. Tell him what food you like to eat and why. About your boyfriend or girlfriend or whatever. Tell him about your pets. Have your pet write a letter to the President. Have your pet nominate you for President. Citizens need to be heard, and as we all know, the word is still the most powerful tool there is. The only rule is that you can’t mention my book in the letter. This is not supposed to be about me, it’s supposed to be about the person writing the letter.
Q: It must be a lot of work to read all the letters.
Hudson: Boy, it is a lot of work. There are so many letters. I was wondering, will you help me with this?
Q: Would I be paid?
Hudson: I could give you some kind of medal. Would you accept a medal as payment?
Q: I’ll think about it. Before we go, any thoughts as to who our next President should be?
Hudson: Oh, that’s easy. My Mom. You wouldn’t believe how much my Mom cares about people. She’s always helping people, in some way or another. She can be a little overbearing at times, but that’s only because she cares so much. I’d like to see my Mother as President. I mean, just imagine what that’d be like, to have a President that actually cares about people. That would be something, wouldn’t it?