From: Lee Pacheco
Date: Mon, Mar 13, 2017
I read, love and shared The Art of Hosting before I even finished reading the post. I feel betrayed. I realize it’s my fault for jumping the gun and sharing too soon. But, I fell in love one paragraph in. I had to share. I Facebooked. I texted. I printed it and mailed it (not really, who does that?)
Then, I got to the end of “Part 1” and there was no “Part 2.” The horror. It was as if I was watching broadcast TV and not Netflix. I have to watch one episode at a time? And wait?! What kind of savage do you think I am?!? This is 2017, and I need it now. All of it. I’m spoiled, I’m sorry.
I digress, I still love the article and have started perusing other posts. I just have a deep-seated fear I will miss the subsequent parts now and my party knowledge will be deprived.
From: Brian Dodds
Date: Wed, Feb 1, 2017
Subject: you gibfaced zounderkite!
So I hadn’t read the transcript of Trump’s speech on Black History Month yet, and I wandered onto your page and thought, wow, this is good. His essence is captured perfectly. It wasn’t too over-the-top like some Trump impersonations I’ve read, it was just the right amount of batshit unhinged with the perfect level of ADHD scattershot context switching. You really, really nailed it. Is what I thought. Until I clicked the link to your citation. Now you know why I’m upset. God damn it!
I understand that he’s so inexplicably horrendous that you don’t actually need to write satire anymore, but please, I expected satire, and to find reality is just crushingly depressing.
G-d (or someone) help us all.
From: Dan Kennedy
Date: Sun, Jan 29, 2017
Subject: From a desk made from a tree in room 187
Dear McSweeney’s —
This thing I do, go out into America, tell stories on a stage, or read something in a bookstore, has me one moment at home in New York City, enjoying the laid back island lifestyle on that little strip of land off the coast of America called Manhattan, and the next moment I’m out into the heartland. Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois. Sometimes cities, sometimes small towns, like Galesburg with it’s gorgeous Vaudeville theater where Houdini played; where the ghosts of a love triangle murder-suicide linger in the box seat, mezzanine, stage left. Oddly, a perfect setting to say funny things into a microphone.
Last weekend I was marching in a sea of hundreds of thousands of people, right up fifth avenue, toward the dark glass tower that the new leader lives atop. But today, I write you from the frozen lunar tundra of Jackson, Wyoming. Lest it paint too adventurous a portrait, let’s adjust it: I’m at a desk in a hotel room typing to you. In my headphones, the new Mark Eitzel album makes me feel like the world outside isn’t falling apart. But it is, there are enough screens in here, including the one I type to you on, that keep putting up little alerts about how fast it seems the country is coming undone. My flight coming here was moved from JFK’s Terminal 4 to Terminal 2 at the last second, very strange, but then I saw that it was because thousands were descending on Terminal 4 in protest of something else that Trump was doing. A Muslim ban? A travel ban? A ‘Boeing planes are too expensive so let’s punish the company by not let them land’ ban? Who knows, seems to depend on what made this 70-year-old enfant terrible hurt, angry, or scared in the dark the night before. It’s hard to keep track of the themes of the protests these days and the guy’s only been on the job a week.
Once I checked in I used my pocket screen, my folding lap screen, and my room’s wall screen to see that airports all across the land were jammed. Ah, got it, to oppose the so-called “Muslim Ban.” It’s as if Trump doesn’t understand that the call’s coming from within the house; the biggest enemy on our soil at the moment is ourselves. While trying to make sense of everything going on outside, I learned that the next big march will be April 15th because The President of The United States refuses to release his tax returns. You gotta keep up on the marches now. You have to know what you’re marching about. Just part of things, like knowing where a Starbucks is, staying hydrated, making sure you know where your phone charger is.
In my headphones Eitzel sings about a world that’s a lightning flash followed by a million zeroes, where a ferryman doesn’t give a damn who’s cursed or who’s blessed, where every drunk is a V.I.P. These are lyrics that come right on time. This is a song and a record that reminds me that there are hidden gems in the world — that the more the country gets torn down, the more the globe gets heated up, the more we will stumble across the occasional diamond, too. I mean, that’s just simple science. Outside, the giant maw of the Tetons looms, stronger than all of us, and here way longer. Elk traverse them, you can see all the tracks all over in the deep powder, because you know what, these Elk are like, “Hey, a motherfucker’s gotta eat.” Me, I order up a ham and egg and cheese, but outside every wild thing fights not to die forgotten and without dignity. But lately, maybe that’s us, too. Jesus, I don’t know, maybe the Mark Eitzel song is just a great song that I should be dancing to. And maybe the mountains outside are just beautiful scenery I should be enjoying.
Shit, I’m just remembering that something about this is supposed to be funny. Something about this letter, I mean, not the mess we’re in. What about this: It’s 1940, Glenn Miller’s tour bus breaks down on the side of the snowy interstate. On the horizon, across the field, they can see a house with the lights on. Glenn and the band walk clear across the snowy field. They get to the house soaked and freezing and worried about how they’re getting to the next show. They and peek in and see a man and his wife and children in a warm cozy house, fire blazing away, everyone smiling having dinner together at the table. There’s just a long silence and finally one of the guys in the band speaks up and says, “Jesus, how the hell do people live like that?”
I’ll head to Massachusetts next, but will drive it with my friend Meg, trying to remember that we’re all people with hearts and heads, and that one way or another, we’re going to have to realize that we’re in this together.
From: Meg Thompson
Date: Tues, Jan 24, 2017
Subject: My Toddler’s Next Birthday Party Will Not Have A Theme, And The Reason Is Because I Don’t Love Her Very Much
Well, that’s not entirely true. There will be a theme: Bleariness. Actually I might make that one of the motifs, along with Lighthearted Ineptitude and Sobriety through Guilt.
It’s just that in our increasingly divisive culture, I think we can all agree that themed birthday parties for children are getting out of hand. Call me hyper-rational but I have a hard time justifying spending money on a party for a human so small they can still take baths in a bucket from Home Depot on the porch in the summer. I prefer to keep some padding in my checking account for things like milk, bread, and the various bone replacements I’ll need when mine disintegrate after years of bending over and lifting children out of car seats that cost more than my annual life insurance premium.
The United States government estimates that a middle-income family will spend roughly $245,000 per birthday party. This leaves some struggling families with a choice: a child gets either a car seat, or a birthday party. Obviously, which one are we going to choose? With her hair in her eyes and secondhand leggings, our daughter is reminiscent of a 2-year-old chimney sweep.
In truth I have come up with some pretty good themes but my husband usually vetoes them. Last year I really wanted to do “The End Times are Approaching.” I even had party games planned, like running away from the swarm of mosquitoes I released from a cardboard box in the kitchen. The person with the least amount of bites at the end won a metaphorical prize, which was living in a state where your governor agreed to allocate funds to help eradicate Zika.
Contrary to popular belief, I am not fulfilled by getting in my car at 8:30 pm to drive to Goodwill, The Dollar Store, and Walmart, in that order, to cobble together a clearance-inspired birthday party for a person too young to even know when their birthday takes place. Further proof of how I am robbing my child of happiness is evidenced in the fact I’ve never let her pay for us to stand in line for an hour at the mall to sob on the lap of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. Lastly, she has not seen Frozen. I have never told this to anyone, including her pediatrician. I’ve carried that secret with me for years, and it feels good to finally be open about it. I do worry that when she acquires language and can form full sentences, she will feel left out during discussions of the film, the way I do when people make allusions to Nickelodeon programming and Christianity, neither of which I was exposed to in my youth.
Let me clarify, though, that I am in awe of parents that pull off this shit. I have seen you, eyed your Facebook albums of various toddler gatherings with anthropological scrutiny, and if I knew where any of my hats were, I would tip them to you. You seem to be wearing freshly laundered clothes, not just yoga pants you picked up off the floor and shook vigorously a few times. How do you do it? How is your child’s face so clean? Do you spray something on the skin so that the mud slides off, like eggs on a non-stick pan?
In reality the best birthday party I could give my daughter is granting her a day where I download all the apps on our iPad I’ve denied her because they cost $1.99 and let her play them until her retinas explode. That’s all she really wants. It is obvious that for a toddler she has a rich, internal life, and is put off by social situations. At the last play date we hosted, she walked into her room, climbed into her race car bed, pulled her covers up to her nose and stared silently at her little friend playing with the toys in her room. It is during these times that I identify with her the most.
In terms of saving money, shirking consumerism, and running the risk I wouldn’t get the marble pizza stone of my dreams, I started early by running from my own bridal shower and having a panic attack. Then my husband and I took it to the next level and got married in a courthouse 700 miles away from all of our living relatives. For the finishing touch, I didn’t have a baby shower when I was pregnant. As you can see, I have a long history of disappointing my friends and family, and I don’t intend to stop now.
Date: Fri, Noiv 4, 2016
Subject: Idea for New Snack
To whom it may concern.
My name is Shane and I have an idea. I love your beef jerky but I am also a huge bacon fan, and while eating my bacon one morning smothered in maple syrup I thought, why hasn’t someone packaged this?. Just a suggestion and I’d love too see it in stores.
Date: Wed, Aug 17, 2016
Subject: SO WRONG ABOUT THE DOORS
So how old are you, you prick. What do you really know about The Doors? We’re [sic] you there ? I was. It was all about the music. Groundbreaking. Sensual. Erotic. Thoughtful. Revolutionary. How dare you patronize the young and the old who are open to magical sensations. You got this one so WRONG .
— Signed, a child of the 60’s who also loves music of this decade.
From: Carrie Wittmer
Date: Tue, Jun 3, 2016
Subject: Re: Social Media Intern Wanted At The Night’s Watch
To Whom It May Concern,
I’m excited to apply to be the social media intern at The Night’s Watch. As a southerner, I have always dreamed of living in the North. I hate the heat, and always wanted to live among the pure white snow. And I always wanted to see what happens when I pee on it, lol.
I am also attracted to the possibility of imminent death, so there’s that, which makes me a perfect fit for this position.
Before I go on, I’d like to apologize for not sending this via raven, the more traditional Westerosi way. My raven is a fucking idiot and hasn’t returned from sending a Dorne Beach postcard to my uncle in the fucking Riverlands. ugh.
As annoyed as I am with Raven (my raven), I also think that my ability to so easily email my application is a demonstration of my skills with social media and the Known World Wide Web.
I graduated from University of Highgarden (GROW ROSES, GROW!!!) in 297 AC with a degree in communications where I learned a lot (too much) about ravens, and also about some more practical means of communication including GeoCities, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine (but that was only cool for a year).
I also graduated with a minor in creative writing. The price I paid for these extra classes? I had to take sword lessons. My lord father spanked me to sleep every night until I was “good enough” at it. So, yeah, I’m “good enough“ with a sword for the Night’s Watch.
Unlike most Southerners, I believe that the White Walkers are the biggest threat to Westeros (S MY D, LANNISTERS), and will do literally anything to raise awareness for this cause.
The youth are the key to the survival of Westeros. Therefore the best way to raise awareness for the inevitable arrival of the White Walkers is via Snapchat. I mean, if the teens of Westeros are seeing footage of actual White Walkers on their Snapchat Discover page, they’ll never stop talking about it to their lord fathers, and they’ll have to do something. Even if their lord fathers don’t get Snapchat at all. You know?
I would also like to note that I have had sex a few times but think it’s actually kind of gross. Like, I can see myself doing it on weekends every now and then, but it’s something I can honestly live without.
I just have a few questions I’d love you to answer at your earliest convenience:
- You mentioned in the description that this is a Summer internship. It’s Winter now, and it’s gonna be a long one. Do I have to wait a decade or two to start this thing?
- If I die, will you send a raven to my parents to let them know? And one to my brother to let him know that I am definitely not a virgin?
- I’m a pyro, and might get addicted to burning bodies. Is that ok?
- Can I bring Raven, my stupid raven? I hate her, but she gets me.
I live in the Reach and am available to travel to Castle Black as soon as possible. The attached résumé details my experience, education, and other skills. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you!
From: Camilla Lafetá Sesana
Date: Wed, Jun 15, 2016
Subject: More Woke Lit Classics
Here I am recovering from a tonsillectomy and your list just made my day. These are my humble additions:
Of Mice, Men and Specism
The Human Stain (All Human Skin Patterns Are Beautiful)
From: Barbara B.
Date: Tue, May 3, 2016
Subject: WHITE SAVIOR REVIEW PARODY
WHILE I APPRECIATE HUMOR AS WELL AS THE NEXT WRITER, I’M SICK TO DEATH OF THE OVER-USE OF FOUR LETTER WORDS, BECAUSE IT SUPPOSEDLY ADDS TO THE “TONE,” BE IT HUMOR OR DRAMA. IT DOESN’T. ADD TO THE TONE. IT’S BORING. REALLY REALLY BORING.
I SEE THE “EFF” WORD, AND ALL IT’S [sic] DERIVATIVES, AND SUCH SCRIBBLED ALL OVER, DOWNTOWN. I GET OUT OF A CAR,WALK MY DOWNTOWN STREET, COUNT TO 6…AND HEAR THE “EFF” WORD, UTTERED TO NO PARTICULAR EFFECT…. BY RANDOM STRANGERS, ON AND ON AND ON. I’M GROW WEARY OF THE WORD POLLUTION.
READERS AND WRITERS SHOULD STRIVE FOR A LITTLE SHAKESPEAREAN CLASS. THEY SHOULD AT LEAST CONSIDER: PEOPLE TIRE OF THE SAME EXPLETIVES, THAT HAVE COME TO BE MEANINGLESS, DUE TO OVER-USE.
READERS AND WRITERS OWE THE WORLD A HEAPING HELPING OF ORIGINALITY! SIGH. GETTING IT LESS AND LESS.
BLESSINGS ON YOUR PUBLICATION, AND FINE WRITERS, THEREIN.
From: Demet Korucu
Date: Tue, Apr 26, 2016
Subject: my new product idea for your company
Dear James Thatcher,
I am working in the Physics Department in Michigan State University as a visiting scholar. I have very useful, important idea as a new sanitary pad product. How can I contact with you? Please write your special email address and your contact details. I believe my new product idea is so important for the sanitary pad industry.
I am so excited.
From: Brendan P. Kelson
Date: Sat, Apr 23, 2016
Subject: Macbeth v. Macduff
Hey McSweeney… just wanted to give you a heads up that I read your Macbeth vs. Macduff arguing semantics article and found it absolutely hilarious! As you can see, I write Shakespeare for Kids books and it lines right up with what I do… so, thank you! I’m sharing with my followers, because, it was awesome! It was brought to me by a parent in a Macbeth for Kids class I’m teaching currently…
Great stuff, thank you!
— Brendan P. Kelson
From: Brian Bewley
Date: Wed, Mar 30, 2016
Subject: civil liberties insurance
Is there actually a website for this?
Towards the bottom you write “The civil liberties insurance website uses an example of an Oregon man who was arrested and held illegally by the FBI for a terrorist plot…”
Editor’s Reply: No, it is not a real website. We are a humor site and this is a work of satire.
From: Marion Paquin
Date: Sat, Mar 19, 2016
Subject: Thank you!
I just wanted to let you know that McSweeney’s has given me untold hours of pleasure, as well as probably having helped me burn off thousands of calories by howling with laughter. I’ve scared the cats by suddenly whooping with laughter, and have told just about everyone I know about you. Thanks again! You’re a national treasure.
From: Armella H. Cohen
Date: Wed, Feb 24, 2016
Subject: Comment – The Peculiar Arab Chronicles By – NOUR ALI YOUSSEF
While researching for articles on the Arab culture I was floored in humor and gratitude for this young woman’s talent. Speechless!
Thank you for posting these brilliant articles of her amazing creative mind.
— Armella H. Cohen
From: Josh Green
Date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
Subject: Issue 36
Brian [McMullen, former editor],
I’m emailing you this photo of me holding your McSweeney’s 36 in front of my face because in the liner notes you mentioned that if I send you a picture of me holding this box in my home you would send me something special. Upon attaching this photo (taken by my four-year-old daughter; her first!) I noticed that I have a glittery star stuck to the crotch of my pants. I didn’t notice it when the photo was taken, and it must have fallen off at some point in the day because I didn’t notice it later either. My wife makes hair bows for local craft shows and there are always residuals lying around. She makes a lot of money doing this and it keeps her hands busy when Braelyn (my step-daughter) is napping or at school. I guess I mention all this because I didn’t want you to think that I walk around with glitter on my pants for no reason, or for reasons of my own. Having taken the picture though (and again — it’s her first!) I didn’t want to retake it so I explained the situation instead.
Also Brian is my wife’s ex-husbands name.
All this in hopes that my “something special” will be really special as you see how much I went through to earn it.
Thanks in advance!
- Josh Green
From: Daniel Michael Murphy
Date: Tue, Feb 2, 2016
Subject: Perhaps you can help
I’m bothered by The End of the Tour and it’s not related to my new imaginations of DFW as Marshall Eriksen. I don’t know the accuracy of the film to the life of David and David but I’m haunted by a particular scene with Jesse Eisenberg brushing his teeth at Wallace’s house in Illinois. I just want to know if Lipsky actually brushed his teeth or not that night. If the film creators just tossed in the brushing without factual evidence I’m afraid this perpetuates the standard that people have to brush their teeth when staying over someone’s house for a night. Yes, the days in the hotel, great. Brushing at home, terrific. But why must I continually be accosted by friends and family if I do not brush my teeth for a one-night stay somewhere at the end of a tired night? It’s one missed brush. People miss a brush from time to time. Early morning rush, dead tired at night, ran out of toothpaste — there’s always a day here and there where a brush is missed. So if a generally well-brushed guy were to stay over his sister’s place in Brooklyn for one night and pack a light bag of stuff for the train ride from the Garden State, would that person really need to pack a toothbrush? What if the toothbrush was packed but the teeth were not brushed because of some late night watching of The End of the Tour, after a thoughtful rental from said sister to watch with brother and mom for the monthly Sloan sleepover in the city? At what point can we honestly just let the brushing go? To put it in our films suggests that we who go without for a night, maybe even a couple nights, are some sort of hygiene heathens. If you have the sources to verify Mr. Lipsky’s actual brushing at Mr. Wallace’s, than I would greatly appreciate it, thanks.
Daniel Michael Murphy
Colts Neck, NJ
P.S. I most enjoyed the scene where the uncanny looking Jason Segel discusses Wallace’s use of his middle name to prevent the extreme commonality of his first and last combination.
David Lipsky’s reply:
Daniel Michael Murphy raises some troubling questions: about hospitality, cinema fact-check, and the debt we all owe our oral cavern.
The most pertinent one: David Wallace’s grandfather — Wallace side — was a Troy, New York dentist. This presents in Infinite Jest as the partial joke of director James Incandenza releasing a 73-minute feature called Fun With Teeth. Dental care as thriller: it’s described as “horrific” and, for the special cravings viewer, “sado-pareodontal.” (“Silent with non-human screams and howls,” is the logline.) Wallace was very serious about tooth stuff: We played chess right after my arrival — bags dropped, tape on, him having a workshop to teach — and he halted the piece exchange. “All right, we’ve got time for one more move each and then we have to leave. I’ve got to brush my teeth.” A day later, I repeated a cool observation he’d made — research results, chore experiment — into the tape machine: “Dave said he notices on days when he brushes his teeth with his left hand as opposed to his right that he thinks more interestingly.” Wallace laughed: “Best of luck putting that into any kind of context that’ll be interesting: ‘As we drove into Chicago, Dave began a system of loose associations, some of which follow here.’” A much briefer Incandenza film follows the complete obliteration of the grandfatherly town. No Troy: seven minutes, disaster footage, released in Canada as The Violet Ex-City. An entire urban center extracted, gone to cavity.
On the hospitality side, David Wallace was absolutely generous — a wonderful host — about offering guest room, spare towel, sink and shower privileges.
So down to fact-check: I brushed twice a day there — the odd, gravity-less feeling of an absolutely familiar action performed in an away setting, at the home of someone you admire but do not know. What seemed strange was the George Constanza detail: Jesse Eisenberg brushing topless. That stops me. To quote a non-related Seinfeld advisement, “There’s good-naked and bad-naked.” Disrobed tooth-brushing seems to fall on the gray side of that ledger. On the question of skipping a day — we’re given our bodies fully-featured and ready to use, and don’t even have to find a service provider; they function right out of the box, teeth included — Mr. Murphy is invited to square with his own conscience. I’m not anything like as devoted to teeth as David Wallace was. But I remember the first time I got an implant, feeling sad, a sort of creeping mortal defeat, because I’d wanted to carry my own teeth from start to the ground, and my bad luck or faulty ministrations had made this impossible. But that would have been the last square on the board.
— David Lipsky
February 23, 2016
From: Josh Logue
Date: Mon, Feb 1, 2016
Subject: Donald Trump and John Updike
The founder of the group Students for Trump, which has expanded to 30+ campuses with 300+ members and 24k Twitter followers, explained to me today why he supports Trump’s candidacy via an extended comparison to the short story “A&P” by John Updike.
He explained that those three girls walking into the store wearing only their bikinis was a rebellious, Trump-esque act at a time when bikini-clad shopping was very taboo. Eventually, Sammy quits because, "he did not want to conform to the society that was put before him by his family, his boss, etc.”
“To me,” he said, “Donald Trump is that positive and new change that is needed back in Washington."
My initial thought upon hearing this was that it tracks: The three girls = Trump, their bikinis = Trump’s statements, Sammy = college-age Trump supporters, the store manager = Hilary Clinton, the uncomfortable shoppers (aka “the sheep”) = the hesitant GOP establishment, Stokesie = the tea party, and John Updike = me.
However, upon upon revisiting the text today at work, I realized that this metaphor holds up startlingly well. Unfortunately, Mr. Students for Trump has drawn the wrong conclusion from the story. Allow me to explain.
First, on a purely aesthetic level, Updike was obviously describing Donald Trump. One of the girls is “a chunky kid, with a good tan,” and it is indisputable, I think, that Donald Trump does indeed possess “one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose.”
The “black hair that hadn’t quite frizzed right,” is a little off the mark, of course, but the idea that it isn’t quite right is right on the money.
Now, which aspects of Trumps personality each of the three girls represents is for wiser men than me to determine. But, Updike writes, “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glassjar?).” Substitute “girls” for “Trump” and singularize everything, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a true sentence.
Updike also writes that “the girls were walking against the usual traffic,” and watching that happen was “pretty hilarious.” Pretty hilarious indeed.
Even Sammy’s observation that “you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering” is chillingly similar to Donald Trump’s proclamation that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?"
Further parallels also revealed themselves.
The A&P = professional politics, the beach = NBC (home of Celebrity Apprentice), and McMahon = the Koch brothers.
The “old party in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice” is either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, depending on what you think “bums do with all that pineapple juice,” and Stokesie holding up all those other shoppers is a pitch perfect representation of modern political gridlock.
Now, on to the “sad part of the story,” which, Sammy notes, “my family says it’s sad but I don’t think it’s sad myself.”
Sammy imagines that Lengel, aka Clinton, “had been thinking all these years the A & P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard.” A brazen jab at the powerful Clinton dynasty.
However, and I’m sure you see where this is going, the revolution fails. The establishment wins. The establishment and the Establishment. Queenie even admits that “we weren’t doing any shopping.” They (he!) weren’t really there in earnest.
“You didn’t have to embarrass them,” says Sammy.
No, says Lengel. “It was they who were embarrassing us.”
From: J. Coe
Date: Sun, Jan 10, 2016
Subject: Tandem bike craigslist
I can’t seem to get your email address from your craigslist reply. So I will try here. The other customer for the bike turned out to be a scam. So I still have the bike. If you are interested let me know.
From: Bethanie Souroup
Date: Tue, Jan 5, 2016
Subject: A Message for Eric Hague
Dear McSweeny [sic],
Searching for information, I put in the search terms, “VIRUS THAT DOWNLOADS PORN.” and fell across the article titled “Retraction: There is in Fact Such a Thing as a Virus That Puts Porn on Your Computer” by Eric Hague.
Would you please share the research and any links that led you to write the article.
I am happy to share more information with you and answer any questions you may have.