From: Zadie Smith
Subject: Hey you
Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000 15:02:46 Add Addresses

Dear McSweeney’s,

I know the body of this letter is meant to include some left-field tale of the American workplace or an anecdote about Pollack, but in it’s place, a short announcement:

Soon, I am going to publish a book of stories with McSweeney’s publishers. It should of said that in the list of things the McSweeney’s representative was listing, but for legal reasons and in fear of publisher headaches I did not let him list it in this list I’ve been talking about. This was sort of chickenshit of me. When I first met the McSweeney’s Representative, we vowed we would be brave/strong/true and write more inner-voice-of-animals narratives, while sitting on those big inflatable balls (space hoppers?). Apart from the inflatables thing, I have failed. So here it is Mister Man, the announcement in black and white and everything. I figured, legally speaking, anyone could have sent this e-mail, right (see p.s.)?

that is all,

zadie smith.

p.s. poisoned pumpkin.

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Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000
From: Josh ‘Phischel’ Fischel
Subject: ASK MR

Dear McSweeney’s,

Why is there not a holiday gift package in which one might receive:

-A four-issue subscription to McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, beginning with Issue #6
-A copy of Lawrence Krauser’s forthcoming novel, Lemon, with a cover hand-decorated by the author
-[Untitled novel involving water], by Dave Eggers.

I would call this Package Ten: “The Package I Want,” $75

And while we’re talking about this:

Package Eleven: “The ‘What the…?!’,” $33

-A festive McSweeney’s holiday gift card.
-A McSweeney’s T-shirt, made of cotton, in one of several exciting new designs.
-A poster featuring Neal Pollack, naked except for a cat.
-Bill Wasik.


Package Twelve: “The Warm Glow of Love,” $47

-A festive McSweeney’s holiday gift card.
-A four-issue subscription to McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, beginning with Issue #6.
-Candy for a baby from whom candy has been stolen.
-Ponies for all the cute puppies in the world.

or even

Package Thirteen: “The Special Treat,” $10

-A special treat.
-Bill Wasik, naked except for a McSweeney’s T-shirt, made of cotton, in one of several exciting new designs.

Thank you for your consideration,

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From: Newhart, Bryson
Subject: Please disregard last letter
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’m not sure what I was thinking sending you that last letter. It makes no sense addressed to you and is more like an exchange between a wanna be mass-murderer and a neighbor he is trying to get to know (but whose pet ape he does not want to get to know since it attacked him one time in his bathroom). The tone makes it sound like I’m directly addressing you and asking you to choke yourself — NO! NEVER! When I wrote it, it seemed funny because it was happening in my mind where there is this funny character that I imagine saying amusingly threatening things but who I always forget to give a context to. In order words, please disregard it, the letter. Not that I didn’t think you would have the sense to anyway.


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Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000
From: Oat Red

Dear McSweeney’s,

Although not very many people know about it, sweaters have been being made for decades using the hair of cats. The Shetland cats of Scotland make especially good sweaters. This is because the Scots allow their cats to be overseen by the super-intelligent sheep that reside in their land.

Please let your readers know about this.


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From: Williams, Sarah
Subject: dating service
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000

You guys should have a dating service for your readers.

Sarah Williams
Charles River Associates
Oakland, California, USA

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From: Carter, Timothy
Subject: RE: Wool Carding
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Well, I did some research and discovered the mysteries of wool carding. The process of making wool has been passed down throughout out history: woven in our history if you will. Long ago, this task was completed by elderly women and young children. The wool was placed between two paddles with hooks— like Velcro only bigger. The paddles where then pressed together and moved in opposite directions. The purpose of this timeless process was not to straighten the wool, but rather to thoroughly mix the different components of the wool (fleece and other imperfections) and to “fluff” the wool. Because, as you see, wool must be soft and fluffy or who needs it. I frequently dress in wool sweaters of all sorts; in selecting my sweaters I seek out a good, fluffy sweater. With out wool carding… I would be lost.

Timothy Carter

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Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000
Subject: Notice of my awareness of my poor spelling skills

Dear McSweeney’s,

This notice is to serve as a statement – which I guess makes it a statement rather than a notice – of my egregious spelling of the word EGREGIOUS as AGGREGIOUS in my previous letter to McSweeney’s readers. This particular word has always been a problem for me, and this episode of its misspelling was my self-imposed, “last chance.” I had given myself, “one more chance,” to spell the word correctly or not spell it at all. So, in keeping with my own ultimatum, I shall no longer use the word egregious in written form. Effective immediately, I will replace the word egregious with, “the word I have sworn never to use again.” For example, if I am to write, “I have made an egregious mistake,” I will instead write, "I have made an ‘the word I have sworn never to use again,’ mistake. Please note this in your files. Thank you.

Jason Stella

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Date: Fri, 01 Dec 2000 18:09:22 -0700
From: Rubies at Tea Time
Subject: stabber

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last night I dreamt I had the urgent need to urinate. I was in that same old rickety house I always dream about only this time my aunt and her three small children were living there. In waking life she has only two children and they were not the children from my dream. They were dream children. I asked her where her bathroom was and she lazily replied, “Oh, it’s down the hall, but you won’t find a toilet there.” She pointed to the center of the kitchen and there was a toilet. She said, "I could find the privacy screen for you but it will take at least two hours. Badly did I have to pee. Then she said there was a very flat toilet underneath the floor but she warned me the journey to it would be arduous and full of danger. Just then the plainclothes policemen rang the doorbell. They aggressively questioned my aunt about her husband in front of the children. I thought they were immoral and yelled at them so. Just then the officer in the powder blue shirt stabbed my aunt in the shoulder with a letter opener.


Mary Anne Fisher

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From: Gregory Purcell
Subject: Quit, To Quit, Quitting; see Quat, Quisling
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000


I have not quit smoking. I just remembered how I used to write letters to you guys going on about how difficult it was to quit. Well, that was about four months ago. In the meantime, I have started again. It all has to do with my having to go out to Itasca in order to proofread the Iowa tests as they are administered in North Carolina. Believe me, you’d smoke, too. Anyway, they canned me with no notice, because all of a sudden they ran out of money, or something.

While I was shoveling the walk last night I kept thinking about some futurist protagonist writing a manifesto about “The Randy New-Man.” On and on he would go about how The Randy New-Man was going to liquidate the cesspool of academic classicism. It cracked me up. “Randy New-Man,” Randy Newman, get it? But after awhile I just started singing that “short people got no reason to live” song. There was a lot of snow to shovel, you see. I probably sang that song to myself about 700 times. I was able to do this so many times because I only know bits and pieces of the lyrics. Here’s what I know:

“…they got funny little eyes/ and funny little lips….Short people got/ No reason to live…”

That’s it. That’s all I know. About 700 times I sang that bit of song. After I thought I was going to go nuts I decided to sing the part in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” where they start singing about the figgy pudding. But all I know of that is, “Da da da da figgy pudding, da da da da da,” So I improvised with, “you won’t get your figgy pudding ’till you have a good year.” Then I thought about some sales office somewhere, where the Christmas bonus is figgy pudding, and it’s withheld unless you have a “good year”—that is to say, a lot of sales. But who would work for figgy pudding? Some asshole, that’s who. Some asshole who should quit his/her job, and pronto.

Then I started making up German words that don’t exist, like "der gardenhosen, “and die foofienberger.”

Sometimes I feel sick from thinking.

Greg Purcell

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From: McDermott, Terry
Subject: anti-establishment
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000

Dearest McSweeney’s,

It’s only 9:50 (a.m.) and yet I have already come across the term “anti-establishment” not twice, but THRICE, in my internet article perusing. Is this term really necessary? Is it? I say “not.” Frankly, I’m not really sure I know what it means. I think I’ll have a cup cake now.


- - -

From: Anne Banks
Subject: diggin’ a hole
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000

Dear folks,

The last time I talked on the phone to my brother, who owns a home in the sprawl just outside of Phoenix, AZ, he told me that he has been digging a hole, by hand with a shovel, in his back yard. As he was describing the hole, my attention wandered, and when he said it was eight feet deep by three feet wide by twenty-two feet long, I had a hard time visualizing it. Then I realized that the word he really meant was “trench.”

A. Banks

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From: Zadie Smith
Subject: What’s wrong with you people?
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

What? You want everyone to know I can’t punctuate? You couldn’t have checked the letter for mistakes? “…but in it’s place, a short announcement” You couldn’t have changed that? Now, you see that’s why you, Mister Man, will never run a truly world-class magazine type operation. Ever. No. Not even if you ask nicely.

Remember when everything we touched turned to a titanium-silver conglomerate with lead coating?

Zadie Smith

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From: Delahoyde, Steve
Subject: New Television Program
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’ve started writing a sitcom about a wacky family. In it there’s a funny young kid named Teddy, a spunky daughter who has a thing for chocolate, and two parents who are from a zany circus background. They get in all sorts of crazy adventures week after week! The show is called “The Spanish-Speaking Chimp.” You’d think it also features a chimp, wouldn’t you? One that speaks Spanish? Well you’re wrong.

Steve Delahoyde

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Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000 14:30:35 -0800 (PST)
From: Chris Cotner
Subject: Notes from Flyover Country

Dear McSweeney’s,

For what it’s worth I am now called the Chicken Man.

In other news from the Sooner State:

There is a cemetery about 15 miles from where I live that has a “Dead End” sign on a road leading into the cemetery. I have given thought to sending a picture of it to the large chinned one on network TV. But, on second thought, I would be mortified if he actually used my name on national television. What would Dave think?

In a recent dream that has not been revised, I was a talking head on one of the cable news shows. The weird thing was all I could manage in terms of comment was a bad imitation of Matt Foley saying “Whoppee Freakin’ Do.” On top of that, the host kept agreeing with me saying things like, “I see your point Mr. Cotner, what do you others have to say?” This is not an ambition of mine, to be a talking head on a cable news show, so I shudder to think what my Id might want in terms of employment.

Idea for a new sitcom: SCOTUS. Justice Thomas could play the wacky black friend, Justice Souter the creepy uncle, etc. You could possible do a “Three’s Company” type deal with Justice Scalia living in the same apartment as Justice O’Connor and Justice Ginsburg. The irony in Justice Scalia having to pretend he was gay could be mined week after week. Chief Justice Rhenquist could be the Mr. Roper character. I have no idea what to do with Justice Breyer, Justice Stevens, and Justice Kennedy. Maybe they could do a show in the style of “What’s Happenin?”

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Subject: Dream
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 17:30:12 -0500

Dear McSweeney’s,

I had an odd dream last night. I was waiting on line to see a judge. The woman waiting in line in front of me was the woman who played Mrs. Roper on “Three’s Company.” However, I didn’t address her as “Mrs. Roper” but as “Audra Lindley,” the actual name of the actress who played Mrs. Roper. I told her that she was much prettier in person than as her character on the show. Mr. Roper, played by Norman Fell, was not present.

Kerry Lunz

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From: Werner Klemperer fan
Subject: imminent funniness
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have tried to be funny. Lord knows I’ve tried. Yet I see no one laughing (just yet). I just know, really, really know that things are going to get funny around here. Pretty soon. Very funny.

Werner Klemperer fan

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Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 09:44:30 -0800
From: Ed Page
Subject: Two tasty titles

Dear McSweeney’s,

I used to work in a library. When you work in a library, you’re always terribly bored. You read the endless stream of titles, hoping to find one that will prove to be of some palliative interest. Of all the interesting titles I read when I worked in the library, two have remained stuck in my memory like gnats in amber. One is “The Importance of Wearing Clothes,” and the other is “Gazelle Boy.” Upon discovering these books, I took the liberty of browsing through them. Both proved intriguing. I checked them out and took them home with me for further study.

Both books were labeled “nonfiction” and came from the anthropology section of the library. The first (“The Importance of Wearing Clothes”) was a scientific study of clothes and why we wear them. It was pretty interesting, and included many illustrations.

The second book (“Gazelle Boy”) was even more interesting. It was a scientific study of a boy who had been raised by gazelles in the African savanna. This book was also illustrated. To be frank, it looked more like a children’s story than an anthropological study, but the book was clearly labeled “nonfiction,” and the whole story of the leaping boy was told without irony. Many of the illustrations showed the “gazelle boy” leaping and bounding through the tall yellow grasses alongside his gazelle family.

I gave up countless hours of my tender youth to that library. Finding these two titles made it almost worth it.

Your pal,

Ed Page

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Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 10:55:59 -0800 (PST)
From: Mike Batistick

Dear McSweeney’s:

In his interesting LEMON DIARY, Mr. Krauser mentioned that he was staying in Waukegan, Illinois while drawing covers to his novel. I, too, once visited Waukegan. It was two years ago, cold, and I was dropping off a drive-away car at a strange building.

Thank you for your time,

Mike Batistick

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From: Magic Mike Simpson Subject: Mould is everywhere. Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

My throat has been hurting me for some time. It is a very strange kind of hurt, in that it seems to just ache. Like a dull ache. Not sharp, not “scratchy” — I did not, ever, cough, nor did I go hoarse.

It has hurt for so long that I did the only thing I could sensibly imagine: I consulted the Merck’s Manual and tried to self-diagnose. I figured, hey — I ‘m a graduate student, one time I met Harrison Ford, I certainly could figure this out. I found a number of terrible, terrible diseases in the Merck’s Manual (cat scratch fever is very, very real), told my girlfriend I was most certainly dying, and then immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment.

My appointment was with Caroline who, it turns out, is not a doctor but a “PA”. Which means, essentially, nothing to me, though I imagine her as kind of a Johnny Tremain figure (without, of course, the mutilated hand). She examined my throat, and, decided, within moments, that I have an allergy. To mold.

I said, “Bob Mould?”

And Caroline, who did not laugh at all, said, “No. Mold. It is everywhere.”

Sleep on that.

Mike Simpson,
Mold Allergist

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Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 00:58:24 -0600
From: Adam Tetzloff
Subject: Teenagers and telephones.

Dear McSweeney’s,

These teenagers now a days shure do like telephones, eh? I mean, Jesus. Adam Tetzloff

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Subject: Mars globes
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Please see


for new globes of Mars.

Jennifer S. Blue

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Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000
From: oatmealred

SHETLAND CATS AND KITTENS AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY! These are the cats your grandparents knew! I have gone to extreme trouble to acquire and raise these felines. They spend all their time in a refrigerated room, and are fed on imported grass from Scotland (not chicken’s blood like their oat-rearing cousins), so their fur is of the highest quality.

Please contact:
Ravi Ramgopaul
626 Siparia Old Road,
Siparia, Trinidad,
West Indies.
(809) 677-6822



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From: Robert Elstein
Subject: “Sign” category
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I hope that this letter might possibly start a new thread of “sign” related reader comments; “questions about signs”.

A co-worker recently pointed out a hand-written sign posted in the window of the Haagen-Dazs ice cream “parlor” a block down from our office. (BTW, what ever became of the classic ice cream parlors of yesteryear? [BTW whatever became of people using the term yesteryear?]) In any case, the sign in the window of this Haagen-Dazs said:

All Haagen-Dazs
“cakes” are

The question: Why is cakes in quotation marks?


Robert Elstein
Brooklyn, NY

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From: Mike Topp
Subject: Advice
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2000

Dear McSweeney’s:

Never have sex with someone named “Psycho”; never eat at a place called “Barf’s.”

Mike Topp

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From: Mike Sacks
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000 12:29:21 -0500
Subject: Baal & Cornelious

Dear McSweeney’s,

Remember when I was telling you about those magically-powered dogs in my neighborhood? The dogs who warm me on cold winter nights with the heated-beams that come out of their eyes? They died yesterday.

Mike Sacks

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From: Gregory Purcell
Subject: A Defense
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2000

To the McSweeney’s,

Let me announce myself as a great fan of your letters page. Let me announce that right off the bat, here. It’s a great forum. Demonstrative of the democratic spirit, I would say. We remain whole and lucid in our anonymity. There is nothing else like it in the whole myriad cosmos of publishing.

Yet lately there has been a bit of bad press as far as this goes. The general idea is that the good people who get published on the letters page wouldn’t be able to get published anywhere else. The Baum kid, for instance, he publicly called us “hangers-on.” Then, as if in response, activity on the letters page in general just sort of dropped off. As yet, I have not seen an active defense of the page, and I fear that self-consciousness and ridicule may just hound it into extinction.

As a writer who is regularly published elsewhere as a reviewer and a poet, and who, nonetheless, enjoys as daily manna the day-to-day whatzis of the McSweeney’s letters page, I felt bound to make a defense—yet fearful for my professional dignity, I decided to develop a pseudonym. The name-by-proxy came to me in what you would call a vision while I was at work: Angelica Sidley. Sided with Angels; with angels to the side. Thus I set up a hotmail account under her name. I would write clever little items under her name and go on publishing without stigma.

Then, I decided that that was the cowardly way out. Better to take my stand, as it were.

So, that’s it. “Demonstrative of the democratic spirit.” All of that. Also, hey, you’ve met “professional” writers. I’ve met them, too. It’s not that great a compliment. It’s also not that hard to do, writing, as far as work goes. Beats installing drywall.

Greg Purcell

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From: Sean Carman
Subject: This Ashley Gauthier
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 2000


Because I am interested in arcana, after reading Neal Pollack’s recitations of gratitude, I did a Google search for Ashley Gauthier, an attorney, purportedly from Washington, D.C., whom Pollack thanks as “his savior.” I also seemed to remember reading some amusing letters from a Gauthier, Esq. I found three pages. The first describes an attorney named Ashley Gauthier who has written some legal publications with winning titles, such as “Raising the Jolly Roger: The FCC and Pirate Radio Stations.” But this Ashley Gauthier, who edited her law school legal journal, is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Was she in Washington, D.C. on vacation? The second Ashley Gauthier is featured on, is pale with bright red lipstick, and asks those who visit her page to cast a vote for her, for some unexplained reason, a contest perhaps. The third Ashley Gauthier page says simply “living individual, details withheld,” but contains this mysterious annotation: “This page is dedicated to the men and women who braved great danger to come from France and other countries and worked under extremely difficult conditions in the Louisiana Wilderness to produce a better way of life for their descendants. To all of them we are deeply indebted.”

I think it’s the first one, but I’m not entirely sure.

Sean Carman