From: “Drew”
Subject: NFL Picks ?
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001


What ever happened to your NFL picks ?

Do tell.
The captain.

- - -

Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2001
From: Paul Elsberg
Subject: SmokeyAdd Addresses

Dear McSweeney’s,


Yesterday, for no reason whatsoever, my friend Tahneer referred to me as “Smokey.” I like that name. Smokey. If I can remember, I’m going to ask people to call me Smokey from now on.

Paul Elsberg, but please print my name as “Smokey”

- - -

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001
From: Scott Matthew Korb
Subject: Prank Phone CallAdd Addresses

Dear McSweeney’s,

There was this one time when Amie Barrodale made a prank phone call to my mother. I dialed, and Amie got on the phone and said, “Agnes, is Agnes there?,” in this very funny, old-person’s voice. My mother’s name is not Agnes. She reported to me later, when I snatched the receiver from Amie’s hand, that she (my mother, not Amie) was very confused. Of course, I had given Amie permission to make this phone call, but maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. It confused my mother, as I said. Looking back, it was all very amusing, especially that very funny old-person’s voice Amie did. We laugh now.

Thanks, Amie, for all the laughs. “Agnes, is Agnes there?” That’s a good one.


- - -

From: “Andrew Smith”
Subject: My current state of mind.
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001

I’m kind of flipping out today, and the letters page isn’t helping at all.

-drew smith

- - -

Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2001
From: Mark Davis
Subject: Russian town names

Dear McSweeney’s-

I understand that this is an inappropraite forum for the following.

I have had, off and on, the same line from a song stuck in my head for 15 years. I don’t think you can imagine what this feels like – it’s a kind-of Geoffrey Rush in “Shine” feeling.

Here’s the kicker. The line, from a Tom Lehrer song about plagiarism, is:

“To Tomsk to Omsk to Pinsk to Minsk to me the news will run.”


Mark Davis
Somerville, MA

- - -

From: David Stinton
Subject: O Brother!
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s,

I occasionally visit a “dead pool” web site where people compete for money to guess which celebrities will die in a given year. In addition, and unrelated, the site features a list of books, CDs, and movies recommended by the proprietors. One CD they like a lot is by a singer named Gillian Welch.

In looking through the soundtrack album for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I noticed that Gillian Welch sings on it, as one of the Sirens! I was going to email the dead pool site and congratulate them on being so “with it,” but I realized that they’d probably be sarcastic and mean to me. It’s kind of their thing.

Dave Stinton

- - -

Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2001 Subject: FW: someone left their keys in the men’s room on 19 From: Johnathan Sneebaum Subject: someone left their keys in the men’s room on 19 They are still on top of the urinal in the men’s room on 19. It appears that they include GM car keys.

- - -

Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2001
From: Chris Cotner
Subject: New Year and Stuff

Dear McSweeney’s,

On New Years Eve I decided it might be fun to pour the Black and Tan that I just ordered over the head of my best friend. And you know what, it was. Of course, we ended clearing out about 20 people in the booths next to us once we were done. There were a lot of drinks on the table that were begging to be thrown, on someone, anyone, it did not matter. He was screaming about the apocalypse, and as Hunter might say, everything went weird, buy the ticket take the ride sideways weird.

The next day, our respective wives informed us of what had happened, and I admit that some of the details offered by the good natured women (in good natured I mean actually sleeping in the same bed with us that night after what had to have been a truly horrific bar scene) were a little, shall we say, “fuzzy.” But the one thing I distinctly remembered was standing on a table top, (mind you, we weren’t celebrating in some little out of the way watering hole, we were in the heart of the swanky bar area and there were lots and lots of lots of pretty people in attendance in this bar) and announcing, very loudly, to, as I called them, the “assembled throng” that “I was Neal Pollack, the real Neal Pollack, and the man who had been traveling all around the country doing readings was a paid imposter, paid by a shadowy organization that at this time I cannot name for fear of my life and the lives of my children, and that”…well that is where the memory “fuzzes up.”

Mind you, I am on a table top, in the middle of a bar, in the middle of the capitol city of Oklahoma, conviently named Oklahoma City, and am screaming about something that no one even understood. It’s just as well. My apologies to Mr. Pollack and his family.

- - -

From: Ted Travelstead
Subject: tapas
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s,

One of my hobbies is to rent a car for the day and see how many drifters I can pick up at one time. My record is seven (that was the day I lucked into a mini- van for the same price as an economy model!). But usually it is three, sometimes five with some sitting on laps. You’d be surprised how many drifters there are still hitching out there on the open road. Oh, and the stories they tell! That is if they talk. Sometimes they just stare at the road, or at me, and I have to make up a story in my head as I cast furtive glances in their direction (I am driving don’t forget). One rangy dude who called himself Jummy carried with him a small handkerchief doll he had named “Rocky.” I said to him, “Is he a boxer like in the movie?” and he replied, “Get ya eyes outta my head or I’ll slit ya throat.” I just chuckled and kept on driving.

It turns out he loved the movie MASK with Eric Stoltz (whose character’s name was Rocky!). I love it too, and we talked for hours about riding motorcycles through Europe.

All the best,
Ted Travelstead
Brooklyn, NY

- - -

Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001
From: Karl Tobias Steel
Subject: Can’t Say No

Dear McSweeney’s:

Confidential to Greg “Angelica Sidley” Purcell: that sounds like a miserable job. I picked cucumbers for a day once, but I didn’t sing. I don’t think it was allowed.

My junior high once produced the musical “Oklahoma!” The student meant to sing “I’m just a girl who can’t say no” went blank; she remembered nothing but the sad nub of her excuse, viz. “can’t say no.” Thus: “mmmmmmmmmmm Can’t say no mmmmmmmmm Can’t say no.” The “mmmm” do not represent humming; they represent a kind of sub-linguistic somnolent mumbling — and not a Kristevan “Chora”: oh no, you lousy dogs, you won’t catch me in that kind of nonsense!

That sound, man, it was the darndest thing.

This is all getting to be pretty long ago, but in high school my then-girlfriend and my then-best friend were in “Oklahoma!” together. She could sing; he couldn’t. He played the hapless thug, Jud, and when he sang his song — whatever it was - he couldn’t hold his key. The pianist, she was a genius, and followed his meandering, need I say, doggedley. He twelve-toned that d—d song to bits.

With a fringe on top, I remain,
Karl Steel
South Bronx

- - -

Subject: Neal’s Opened Letters
From: Kevin Guilfoile

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thanks for printing Neal’s letter about moving to Philadelphia. It reminded me that I never really gave him a proper send off. I think we were supposed to meet for drinks one night and I couldn’t go, but it wasn’t because I had something better to do, certainly, though Lord knows what he said about me with a few Macallan’s in him.

Neal says he moved to Philadelphia because Philadelphia reminds him of “Chicago in 1985,” which I guess means that Philadelphia reminds Neal of Chicago back when Neal was 14-years-old and living in Phoenix.

Ha, I kid Neal. The fact is, Philly is better for his decision and Chicago is worse. One Neal and one Regina worse. (Some might argue that we are two Neals and two Reginas worse, relatively speaking, us having lost one of each, and Philadelphia having gained the same, but I’m figuring this the way you figure baseball standings, which would mean we lost a half Neal, and they gained a half, etc.).

Nevertheless, it is sad to no longer be in the general proximity of the man who introduced me to both Ethiopian food and Jon Langford. (Actually, I was aware of Jon Langford’s music before I knew Neal — was something of a fan even — but I’m talking about literally introduced here, as in “Hey Kevin, meet Jon Langford.”)

Anyway, Godspeed, Neal and Regina. Both our gods, I mean.

Kevin Guilfoile
Chicago, IL

- - -

From: “David Bryson, MD”
Subject: Centuries & Circadian Theory of Learning – from David Bryson, MD (Yale ’ 63)
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001

Dear Dave Eggers – is the most powerful and radically informative document on the web – John Updike (quoted in the text) calls it “vivid and clear”

Best Wishes, David Bryson, MD (Yale ’ 63)

- - -

From: “Thornton, Walter”
Subject: Linking to Pollack’s Call-to-March
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s,

Today you have a link to the homesite of your main idol, Neal Pollack. Following the link leads to Pollack’s exhortation to march on Washington and demonstrate against George Bush’s inauguration. The justification for this futile exercise is summed up in this excerpt: This man is a dunderhead. He is a smirking scalawag. He is an incompetent and a boob. I have no fear in saying this. Also, he became president in the most suspicious of ways, and has comported himself badly since the Supreme Court elevated him to his current status. His cabinet appointments are mostly insulting, his public statements moronic. His presidency is dangerous, illegitimate, and wrong. It is quite typical of the liberal intelligentsia that he immediately resorts to infantile name-calling, rather than making any substantive criticism of Dubya’s ascension. And the reason he has no fear in saying this is that the only President capable of seeking retribution against his enemies via the IRS or FBI will soon be out of a job. His statement that Bush’s cabinet appointments are insulting forces one to ask, To whom? If to the Senate, they will soon have the opportunity to respond. If to Mr. Pollack, this is an astonishing display of egocentrism to take personally the cabinet selections of the President of the United States. And while Mr. Pollack is certainly free to voice his opinion that Dubya’s presidency is dangerous, its illegitimacy is nonexistent. Perhaps Pollack’s upset that Bush was duly elected by the people of this country, via our Constitutional process, instead of by him. Or are only successful liberal candidacies legitimate? The comment about its being wrong is so infantile as to defy intelligent dissection. Mr. Pollack has every right to voice his opinions and even demonstrate against the inauguration, but his call to arms is so bereft of intellectual honesty that I find it, yes, insulting that it was directed to me as a McSweeney reader.

- - -

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 11:00:00 -0600
Subject: elimae
From: Deron Bauman

Don’t know that you’ll be interested in what we’re doing, but perhaps you will be. Best of luck to you.

Deron Bauman

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Again disregard last letter
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s,

Regarding the last e-mail I sent you entitled “windows open, floor frozen, jogging on a treadmill of ice,” please disregard it, not because I think that I have found an inexhaustible vehicle that might forever stop snow from turning into crusty black ice — it doesn’t exist, my problem cannot be helped — but because it sounds rather cold and desperate, the ranting of a man in a parka whose purported desire to be buried so deeply in the snow that his heart will turn into a snowball — “a cheap homemade toy for children” — blatantly reveals a desperate clinging to the notion that innocent children might actually dig up his corpse, cut out his heart, and play games with it, children that he describes as tiny, knife-wielding snowmen with sunglasses for eyes, little frost monsters that deserve to be attacked with shovels and salt and dog pee. In short, this is not a joyful fabrication with mittens one day, but evil. Pure evil. Perhaps it is ME, not THEM, who should melt, run off down the street, and evaporate into the air again.

Please accept my apologies,
Bryce Newhart

- - -

Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001
Subject: faith helma, you bring me joy!

Dear Mcsweeneys,

I got up at noon and wanted the world to disappear, because yesterday was terrible, my friends came over for dinner but everyone was so lazy and cheap and they complained because I didn’t had enough wine, I had a too little appartment, and then “what the fuck is that” when I played beat happening, and nobody helped me clean up, nobody commented on the beauty of my cat, they just stood there and chainsmoked, until one of them (my best friend) declared “oh I am so tired. let’s go find a taxi” and they all left. It is always the same. Finding true friends is so hard.

I gave my heart to the BMX boy, back in 1991, and I never got it back. I wrote a poem about this and would be interested to know if you are interested about this.


- - -

From: Megan K Lehar
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001
Subject: remembering my habit of writing fairly anonymous letters to people i don’t know

dear people,

i miss the good old days when you published pretty much every letter that anyone sent, i felt more confident of my chances of being published then. but anyway, does anyone want to hire me? i’m cute and smart and i have a wonderful sense of humor, which means that i won’t laugh at your jokes if they suck, and yes, i do sometimes wonder if you have the brain capacity of an ant. i don’t like impolite people and yes, i have a tendancy to be honest, so if you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask me. i tend to get mean and bitter around stupid people, so don’t make me work with them. and i would like a naptime in the middle of the day, i think it’s time that america takes up the siesta. and i’m horribly enthusiastic, especially about pop culture, but when

- - -

Subject: MIT DOORS: Where did the “BEWARE OF PHAGE!” warning come from ???
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2001

Hello Timothy,

As I moved through cyberspace looking for help with a particularly disruptive phage contamination that I’ve been experiencing, I landed on your site. On your “Warnings Affixed to Laboratory Doors at M.I.T.” page there is what I assume to be a recent message warning of phage ,“BEWARE OF PHAGE !” it is titled. In that notice the writer speaks of having certain phage resistant strains. I really need to get in touch with that person, or someone who can direct me to that person. That mystery man is partially reveled as Tom. The guy who provided the message is named as Michael Genrich.

If you can indeed lead me to this precious strain I will forever be in your debt, I will declare life long allegiance to “McSweeney’s”, I will buy you multiple beers and a fine diner, and the bacteria in my lab will be safe from this dastardly menace.

Waiting with hope,


- - -

Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2001
From: “Peter Vaeth”
Subject: Wild Boys

Dear McSweeney’s,

The other night I stood up in a crowded delicatessen, looked over the other patrons, and said, “I can see you all looking at me and I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I do bear a striking resemblance to Simon LeBon of Duran Duran. In fact, I sing lead vocals for a Duran Duran tribute band called ‘Wild Boys.’ We’re playing this Friday at Gunther Murphy’s, the show starts at eleven. So if you love the ’80s and Duran Duran like I do, I hope to see you there.”

Then I sat down, finished my turkey sandwich, and left a little while later.

The funny part is that none of it’s true. I look nothing like Simon LeBon, can’t sing, and don’t even know if a Duran Duran tribute band even exists (though if one does, they surely call themselves ‘Wild Boys.’)

But I did see Duran Duran in concert once when I was fifteen, with my girlfriend, who dumped me a few months later for a good friend of mine.

It helps to write about it.

Thanks for being there,
Peter Vaeth

- - -

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
From: Ottessa Moshfegh
Subject: John GoodmanAdd Addresses

Dear McSweeney’s letter-editor,

A while back I wrote you a letter including a true-to-life description of a miraculous event. This event concerned John Goodman. Remember?

Now I am writing to make a report on the status of my roomate. I have recorded the following developments and transcribed them in order of how much they annoy me, least annoying to most annoying. The list is short, but, mind you, its brevity is only an expression of the concentration of this young woman’s insanity.

1. Upon exiting her room, she will inhale deeply through the nostrils, as though to say, “I can smell you and all your filth!”

Sincerely, Ottessa

- - -

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
From: “Hartsough, Eevin”

Dear McSweeney’s

Yesterday, Sunday, I awoke around quarter to ten in that alarm-less, Sunday morning, slowly coming into consciousness way. As I awoke, I heard with increasing clarity, the sound of someone – some woman – crying. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was. It might have been some hurt animal, it might have been people having sex. And although the sound was unpleasant and disturbing, it was impossible not to listen. So I lay there in my bed, listening as intently as I could, trying to sort out exactly what the sound was. And then, between the squeaks and squeals and other bizarre sounds of upset, I heard the voice say “stop” and then the crying continued. It went on for some time – fifteen or twenty minutes and who knows how much I had slept through.

I think the sound was coming from my neighbors to the East. Once, waiting for the elevator in the hallway, I heard them having a fight. They said things that make them look like entirely different people when I see them now.

Later that day, I returned home and was again besieged by the sound of weeping – this time more human and, I think, from the South.

All of this upset. All around me. And I, with the sense that some action should be taken – something should be done – but what to do?

Eevin Hartsough

- - -

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
From: “samer singh”
Subject: Request for phage resistant E.coli strains

Dear Web master,

I have come across a paragraph mentioning about phage resistant E.coli strains on page I am facing the same problem of lysis in DH5a, BL21,and SG13009. I need the resistant strains for my work. Will you please forward this request to concerned person (MIT researcher) as I am unaware of his address. Thanks in advance for your help.

Samer Singh
Centre for Biotechnology,
Jawaharlal Nehru University,

- - -

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001
From: “thelils”
Subject: the inherent difficulties in brotherly obligations, at least as embued in my consciousness as early as I can remember by a mother concerned w/ making damn well sure that her child aspired to goodness, greatness and all other bar raising ideals.

Dear McSweeney’s:

My sister called me moments ago. She is out of college and has become the antithesis of what she was at the moment she was handed her diploma.

She was ata rave. I did not know that these things still went on. “Of course they do you dork—-didn’t you read the article in the Times Magazine?”

She was screaming into her cellular phone. I calmly, and somewhat discreetly, asked what she was doing (thinking I was going to have to talk her down from an ecstasy overdose). She said that she had only smoked some pot, and had a couple of Mickey’s Big Mouths. I could hear the music. She was breathing into the phone, and snorting, and laughing, and saying “no way!” to someone else who I also heard. I was wondering why she had called.

“Oh my God!” she squealed, “There are two guy’s spray-painting the word ‘scrotum’ on the hood of someone’s new Volkswagen Bug!”

I felt sorry for her, the owner of the Volkswagen, and Anthony Braxton, whom Ken Burns conveniently left off from his comprehensive anthology of Jazz.


a brother perpetually aspiring to the impossibility of Kant’s Categorical Imperative

- - -

Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2001
From: Ottessa Moshfegh
Subject: John Goodman Add Addresses

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last night my roommate and I both dreamt about John Goodman. In my dream, John was a runner at a restaurant I managed. I had to fire him on account of his eating disorder, and his inability to run. In my roommate’s dream, John played a retired football player recovering from reconstructive surgery of the larynx. My roommate said that John refused his dinner, and, having lost his ability to speak English, wandered around the apartment clutching his throat, murmuring “uno, dos, tres,” in a voice like Janet’s, from “Three’s Company”.

The chances of us both dreaming about John Goodman are slim enough for me to wonder if John Goodman is just another John Candy waiting to happen. I just want to document this somehow, in case John Goodman you-know-whats.


- - -

From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Half-blind. Like a bat at dusk.

Dear McSweeney’s,

If my boss is talking to the woman in the cubicle beside me I can’t hear them if I don’t turn around.

Well, actually, I can hear them. But I pretend that I can’t. And if one of them makes a joke about babies or President Bush I don’t laugh.

Most of the time it’s pretty boring stuff.

Chuck Easterling

- - -

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
From: Lonesome Robot
Subject: King Olaf And The Saturday Knights (w/ capitals)

Dear Mcsweeney’s,

There is a contest being run by a certain, big record label (that likes to pretend it’s a small record label) for tickets to an upcoming Steve Malkmus concert as part of his ‘Without Pavement, Do I Suck?’ tour. The only rule is that you have to send them the name of a Swedish reggae band. Faced with the challenge, I spit out the first thing that came to mind:

King Olaf and the Saturday Knights

This stems from a conversation I had with my roommate the other night in which I proposed band names for us. Some of the candidates were ‘The Crazy Angeles’ pronounced angels, in which I grow a pencil thin moustache and we pretend we are hispanic (we are not, although my roommate is tall) and a nerd rock band a la Weezer called ‘Four Eyes and Brace Face’ for which I would have braces installed. My roommate already wears tremendously thick glasses. Actually, about my roommate (who’s moving out, if you need a room), he was at a dive bar near our house called ‘The Station’ (where there is an unshelled peanut machine on the wall). He was there for a prework beer talking to the old drunks that hang out there and this one, dare i say ‘geezer’?, found out that he worked at a well known New York bookstore and said ‘oh, get me this book by e.e. cummings, you know I’m good for the money’ which my roommate, in fact, did not know.

He likes to smoke pot.


- - -

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
Subject: Ode to Ben Greenman

Dear McSweeneys,

Ten days ago I put a piece of cheese inside an iron box and buried it ten feet underground. If my calculations are correct, the cheese is now one hundred feet underground. “If my calculations are correct,” I said, reading my last sentence, and my boyfriend, who has the worst haircut I have ever seen on a man who wasn’t Sam Donaldson, tried to strangle me. I think that his rage comes from poor self-image. Wouldn’t you have a poor self-image if you looked like that goofy bastard?

Here’s what my boyfriend and I do sometimes: we walk out by the river, and he slips his hand inside my shirt and sees what he can see. “I see what I can see,” he said, reading the last sentence over my shoulder. I turned around and punched him hard in the ribs, and he went down like a sack of potatoes. Tomorrow I will put a potato in an iron box and bury it ten feet underground. If I am not mistaken, by this time next week it will be made of gold.

Peace out,

- - -

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
From: Elizabeth Miller
Subject: I had this dream

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last night I had this dream in which David Foster Wallace was trying to kill my family. He was a very calculating killer, choosing first to off my mom before moving along to the rest of the family. Wallace was the sort of serial killer that would track you around the globe in an effort to kill you, and he did just that when my family fled the country in order to thwart his evil plans. Alas, just when it seemed that he had lost interest and was going to leave us alone, we received a tip from the FBI that he had been apprehended in Alaska with a plane ticket in his hand, just moments away from boarding an airplane to the PNW in order to kill us all. His whereabouts were discovered due to an anonymous tip. When confronted, he confessed to everything.

That night, in true evening news fashion, all of Mr. Wallace’s peers from the world of literature were seen looking into large news cameras with shocked expressions on their faces saying, “I just don’t get it. He’s such a nice guy. And smart. Very smart. Why he would do something as awful as this is simply beyond comprehension. Terrible. Just terrible.”

I, too, was on the news. I was talking about how much I enjoy the man’s essays, but, due to the fact that he was stalking my mom, I was most likely going to retire from reading his work. Very sad, as I do enjoy him so much.

After the dream was over I dreamt that Diane Vadino had sold her small red Toyota pick up to my friend Mike and on the side were decals spelling out the word, “VA-DINO” in huge black lettering.

Then I woke up and I was late for work because I forgot to set my alarm and thus did not get up until five minutes before I was supposed to be at work.

I have not stopped thinking about this dream all day. I think it kinda freaked me out.

Elizabeth Miller

- - -

From: Tahneer N Oksman
Subject: Smokey Obsession
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s,

One day, for no reason whatsoever, I called my friend Paul Elsberg (now Smokey) Smokey. He is obsessed with the name. He’s even asked his mother to call him Smokey. Is there something about the name that I am not getting?

And, furthermore, do you know the nickname I got in return? Dokey. Sounds like Donkey. And he doesn’t even use it.

Yours Truly,

- - -

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
Subject: submission? sure

Dear McSweeney’s,

Have you ever wondered whether or not you would get the opportunity to travel through time? We all have! Fortunately, I have devised a method whereby you can determine just that fact. Simply follow these easy steps:

1: Look at a calendar. Write down today’s date on a piece of paper (referred to herein as ‘the note’).

2: Look at your watch (a clock or other timepiece will do if your watch is unavailable). Note the current time. Now, write down the time it will be five minutes from now.

3: Put the note in your pocket or other safe place on your person (IMPORTANT: Keep the note with you at all times for the rest of your life!!! I cannot overstress this enough!!! Perhaps these three exclamation points will help: !!!)

4: If, at some point in the future, you ever come across a time machine, simply remove the note from your pocket, or other safe place, and punch in the time and date written on the note.

5: Revel in the paradox of meeting your future self!

If you follow these easy steps carefully, you should find out in about five minutes whether or not you will ever travel through time! It worked for me! Let me know how it goes!

Bill Burman

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Marching in the Snow a Popular Sport
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 11:13:12 -0500

Dear McSweeney’s,

Can I take this opportunity to come clean on the whole “McWeeney” thing?

- - -

From: Ben White
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001
Subject: Her

Dear McSweeney’s,

The sun was very bright and warm at 11 A.M. yesterday. I was walking down the street, and I had completely forgotten, for the first time, that my girlfriend broke up with me over the weekend. I was simply enjoying the sun and feeling happy and not the least bit maudlin. I passed a restaurant. The sign outside the restaurant read:




Maudlinly yours,
Ben White

- - -

From: “Massing, Robert”
Subject: “The Sneer,” etc.
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 14:03:35 -0800

Dear fellas,

Yes, it is no doubt a bad thing that critics – and the critic in each of us – are tempted to diss the creative output of others; and your theories about our motives for doing so are sound – an immature response to the sheer dauntingness of the creative output we have to comb through, a need to distinguish ourselves from the ones who are most like us.

Where we have to look to address this problem is inward – each of us to his/her own desire to judge, and each of us to his/her own reasons for doing so.

As to how it is possible to manage the unmanageable flow of ideas, creativity, and whatnot, that we are bombarded with every day (and by the way, that is such a good thing! What could be better than knowing that there will always be enough books to read, music to listen to, etc.!) – for me what works best is, believe it or not, to be less discriminating. Read whatever is in front of you. If you have five things in front of you, start with the one that grabs you first.

Thanks for opening up a very important discussion.
Robert Massing

- - -

Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001
From: “Jacob Arvold”
Subject: 50% of a Short Conversation OR Just Me, Abridged, Thus Far

Dear McSweeney’s, A while back I was really into you, then frankly, got bored, but now find you attractive again. While there may be some correlation between your appeal and the content you put-out, I do not dismiss the fact that it may be just some kind of male cycle pheromone thing on my part. But to the point:

I am finding the recent conversation between J.L. and D.E. refreshing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as though I don’t thoroughly enjoy your regular dose of clever stupidism. I am just finding that SINCERITY can have a certain power at times. I remember watching the Super Bowl commercials last year and thinking that the (admittedly sappy/cheesy) Budweiser commercials which plainly boasted the legacy of its company and product actually seemed to be more effective in grabbing the viewer’s attention simply because the other commercials seemed to be on a quest to out-bizarre each other. The wackiness had become monotonous. (I did, however, really dig the cowboys herding cats.)

I think the “Narcissism of Minor Difference” and the “Watching Goliath Fall, Even If He Is A Nice Guy, Syndrome” are wonderful topics to pursue. ButI won’t horn-in on that conversation. I’ve been doing some thinking lately and am wondering; would McSweeney’s and its readership be more interested in discussing 1) Embraced Contentment In All Things vs. Quest for Improvement as meansof attaining Peace Of Mind or 2) Hot Dogs with Papaya Juice vs. Malt Liquor.?

[If this letter is too long you may cut out the last ten sentences]

Jacob Arvold
Minnesota, friend to Canada and Iowa, both, depite minor differences.

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Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 09:35:14 -0500
From: Caren Lissner
Subject: popcorn

Dear McSweeney’s:

There is a rule at my office against making microwave popcorn. But I figured I could get away with it. I put some popcorn in the microwave and then I got a phone call. When I got back into the kitchen, black smoke was billowing from the microwave.

Since I was hungry, I thought, “I could still eat some of it,” and I ran across the hall into my office with it and closed the door. But I was almost overcome by the smoke. I quickly ran back out of my office, shut the door behind me, ran into the hall, and threw the popcorn out the window.

I returned to my office and started typing. People began drifting in and accusing me of having burned popcorn. “It wasn’t me,” I said. “Where’s the popcorn? Where’s the popcorn? I defy you to find the popcorn.”

“I can smell it,” they said.

I threw out my hands. “Where’s the popcorn?”

I advise anyone in a similar situation to do the same.

Caren Lissner

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Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001
Subject: Necessary Gratitude

Dear McSweeney’s,

The recently-read exchange between DE and JL (?) got the blood pumping. I applaud the efficiency in which the point was made to quit the sniveling, and remember why we are involved: our mutual love of reading and writing.

Carrie Gauthier

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Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001
Subject: The Eggers/Lethem Conversation, Please forward to McSwys Rep
From: Dave Reidy

Dear McSwys,

“If one person’s book is popular, or another wins an award, then it helps us all— at the very least, it certainly can’t hurt. The impulse behind tearing into a colleague says Don’t look at that fraud, look at me! But wouldn’t it be just as easy to say, Hey, after you’re done looking at him, look at me, too! Imagine going backstage at a piano recital and seeing the kids scratching each other’s eyes out over who gets to go first. It’s just ludicrous.”

This reminded me viscerally of the semester I spent studying Spanish in Dublin. (I have yet to study Gaelic in Madrid). We read the epic poem of Spain and the Spanish language, “El Poema de Mio Cid.” It was hard to read in Middle Spanish and took forever, but no matter. What reminded me of El Cid in The McSwys Rep’s letter was the fact that 2 fellow noblemen whose names escape me spend much of the poem doing whatever they can to bring dishonor and strife to El Cid, especially when he has reached the pinnacles of honor and success through his exploits in battle and demonstrations of loyalty to the king. And why? According to my professor, because they believed that honor came in finite quantities: there was only so much to go around, and any that El Cid had diminished the portion available to them.

Because of this, they perform any number of heinous acts that seek to dishonor the Cid, which, thankfully bring nothing but dishonor and shame upon themselves (eventually. One would have liked to see it happen sooner). Interestingly, some of the same imagery Mr. Eggers uses to describe the phenomenon of “not enough praise to go around” reviews is used to describe the actions of the 2 Noblemen: they take El Cid’s daughter in the desert, defile her, and leave her to die. And that, in their mind, dishonors El Cid and not themselves. Unbelievable. Reminds me a little of our reviewers, though we’ve all done it as Eggers and Lethem are kind enough to admit.

Just thought I’d write this because it came to mind and I couldn’t not write it. If the you think the McSwys rep would like to read these thoughts, please feel free to forward them.

Dave Reidy

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From: “Bryan Charles”
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 12:56:38 -0500

Dear McSweeney’s,

In high school I woke from a fever dream, stumbled to the phone, called my girlfriend and told her, for the first and last time, that I loved her. Last week I had a fever, but instead of dreaming love, I dreamed my bedroom was a steam engine and a city. The next morning, I called in sick, turned on the television, watched a talk show about teenage girls who dress slutty, and thought, for some reason, about the short stories of Raymond Carver. I decided I’m going to buy that new book, the one with the five unearthed stories, even though I pretended for a long time like I was over him. Who was I kidding? The guy could tell a damn story.

Bryan Charles

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From: “Gregory Purcell”
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 02:55:35

I Had An Idea,

Actually, two.

1.) Ice cream is on the very cusp of human ingenuity. Where does it stand next to The House of Fame or the first model of the double helix?

It is delicious, and we made it.

2.) Also, people are particularly okay when they stand up for themselves as many times as they back down. Sure, sure, I know… The joy of my life is that I am usually surrounded by these people. Sometimes they give me money, and the arguably good part of it is that it’s never when I really need it.

I would like to be a fighter. With my fists. Just once, and then never again. But that’s a third idea.

Greg Purcell

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From: “Sarah M. Balcomb”
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001

Dear McSweeney’s:

My office moved. Don’t worry, not too far, just a couple blocks down Broadway. But here’s the thing. The doorman in my new building, he’s a burly, mustached black man who dresses not unlike Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (though perhaps this might make a better story if he dressed more like Eli Wallach in said movie — including crisscrossed ammunition belts). Also, his name is Cowboy. Seriously. That’s how he introduced himself. Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t question him, didn’t demand to know why he asserted this moniker or if he even has a last name, but as far as I’m concerned, any man who can offer a hand and with a straight face say, “I’m Cowboy,” well, that man is all right with me. That man should not be questioned.

So this morning while I waited for the elevator, Cowboy and I had an interesting exchange. Here it is, as far as I can recall.

“How you doing this morning?” Cowboy asks, his arms folded across his cask-like chest.

“Fine,” I reply softly with a vague smile.

“How’s your spirit? A little low?”


“I can tell,” says Cowboy nodding.

I smile sadly, also nodding.

“We gotta keep spirits up around here.” He pauses to regard the woman next to me, “Ain’t that right?”

The woman smiles and nods. Then the elevator arrives and the woman and I file towards the opening door. Cowboy stands to usher us into the elevator saying, “We could all, any of us, go at any time, so keep them spirits up. Otherwise, what’s the point.”