I don’t want to make you envious or anything, but I’m lying in bed watching some show on VH1 about celebrity feuds, trying to imagine who I would fight with and who I would befriend, all the while fantasizing of returning to the telemarketing job I had in my early 20s, when my head was filled with dreams of drinking until I would be brave enough to join the Army or get a job guarding the nearby Auto-Mall car dealership at night. And there are these people on the VH1 show, these sort of guest commentators that have taped segments with their thoughts on certain celebrity feuds. And most of them are great, these people. But there are others who kill the fun of the show. They are smug and above it all. They make really superironic comments and act like they can’t be bothered with any of this, yet they’re here on the show. Why didn’t they just decline the invitation? And they remind me of the people I used to sit next to at my telemarketing job who would say, “Oh, I’m not really a telemarketer. I’m a (writer, actor, guitarist, student, etc.). I’m just doing this to pay my rent.” To those guest commentators on the VH1 celebrity-feuds program so clearly convinced you are destined for so much more and just there in order to pay your rent, I hope you get where you think you’re going. Quickly. Me? I’m here to help folks with any problems they might be having with paper and paper-related products. So … Leeetttt’s make it papery in heeerrrre. (Still haven’t found a catch phrase to introduce each column with.)

From: Caroline
Subject: Paper Question-As would be expected
Date: May 20, 2004 1:05:30 AM EDT
To: Dan Kennedy (McSweeney’s)

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

I attempted to get a job at this snooty little paper shop downtown. I filled out an application and asked if they were looking for someone with visual-arts experience (which I have). The woman at the counter replied, “Yes, with a background in paper.” I use and love paper—who doesn’t? What should I have put on my application that would have adequately displayed this so-called paper background.

Thank you,
Caroline Caviness

Caroline, how about this: Load the paper tray in your computer printer with everything from your basic Hammermill 40-lb. nonglare white to more adventurous watermarked linen cut paper stock in an assortment of beige and gray hues, and even a few sheets of that so-called sophisticated paper that is handmade and has everything from dried flowers to dead dragonflies and toffee-covered peanuts mashed into it. Then print out the page you’re reading right now … a paper-and-paper-related advice column in which your letter appears. You will not want to overlook highlighting the time-and-date stamp on your e-mail to me, which was sent at 1:05 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. I think anyone writing to me at one in the morning about paper is safely assumed to be passionate about their pursuit in the paper industry. Unless you have a drinking or methamphetamine habit that keeps you up late e-mailing people about how much you resent being questioned for a job that you say you want. In that case, I believe there is a federally mandated box you should have checked on your application, alerting potential employers to your little situation.

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From: Kimberly Crawford
Subject: Paper-Related Trauma
Date: May 19, 2004 7:18:45 PM EDT
To: Dan Kennedy

_Dear Mr. Kennedy,

Recently, I had the bold (but apparently misguided) idea to apply to law school. After receiving seven rejection letters, I am unable to open mail of any kind. My last attempt gave me sweaty palms and left me sobbing about what a huge failure I am and how I’ll never amount to anything worthwhile. Can you recommend a good support group?_

Kimberly Crawford

You found the support group, sister. Anything paper-related—in this case, your mail—that’s giving you grief is best brought here. And, of course, without knowing what kind of paper you’re using for your letters of application, I can only address the more ancillary aspects of your problem. Let me ask you this: When did failure and rejection suddenly become taboo? Take a break from reading your mail and read biographies of some of the most influential people in the history of this country, and you’ll see that failure and rejection are absolutely necessary components to success and accomplishment. At some point, the middle class decided that anything remotely unpleasant be swept or wiped away quickly from one’s character and never spoken of again. Not so coincidentally, they are the same demographic driving the sales of supplemental household cleaning products through the roof to the tune of $12-15 billion a year. Embrace the rejection, because your struggle is part of everything you will get. I would even go as far as to say that what you are able to endure is directly relative to what you will achieve.

Either that or you need to retake your LSAT.

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From: R. Anderson
Subject: Paper Question
Date: May 6, 2004 9:26:34 AM EDT
To: Dan Kennedy

I’m graduating soon and wondering what kind and color of resumé paper would be most effective in finding myself a job and/or ruling the world?

Becky Anderson

Dear Becky,

Get in touch with the girl who wrote the letter that appears just before yours in this column. Find out what she’s been using and go with something exactly the opposite. There’s no real sense in following the lead of Kimberly “0-for-7” Crawford.

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By the time you read this, I will have landed in Bozeman, Montana, and started the drive to western Yellowstone to meet my guide and start our trek on the Madison River. I’ll take notes along the way, as I’ve reloaded my Filofax (black, A5, executive) with A5 ruled notepaper, white (343008). I’ll be eager to answer a whole new batch of your letters when I return—so keep the letters coming and remember … therrrrrrre’s always some … sheeeeets … of … paaaaperrrrr. (Will work on a closing catch phrase while I’m out West.)