A book, a year on, some hope

I’ve finished this novel, about a year after I finished the first full draft. And it’s been about a year since we all began getting to know our homes a lot better, since we’ve shut down so much of our lives. This time last year, I was packing up my few things from the studio at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a haven of a place in the rolling Virginia hills where a few dozen artist-types can work on whatever they want. And, in the evenings, have dinner together, and have a drink, and listen to some poetry. We were aware of the virus then, but in a distant way. As if it were Montana, or the moon: something that existed but which would not touch us. I think they shut down the place, like everyone else did, maybe a week after I came back home.

I was going through some notes from last February. The idea of spending a few evening hours with such people, now, is a luxury too outrageous to dream about, almost. Like touching the moon.

A supremely talented flutist and jazz composer from New York who plays for us, one night, a composition on the lodge’s huge stereo speakers. Two composers of a musical being who were using the theater students at the small liberal arts college across the road as a way to work out ideas. A Washington Post columnist. A professional poker player and nephew of Norman Mailer. A soulful and funny essayist who had recently left a tenure-track job teaching Persian at Harvard. A stripper from Brooklyn who was working on a memoir. A writer on Netflix shows. A photographer from National Geographic who makes weird and beautiful art. A short-story writer with a desk next to the actor Paul Dano up in New York who is working on a novel about soul-switching best friends. A terrifyingly smart poet who translates Chinese poetry and who, some nights, around the fire, recites whole poems from memory. An artist who is good at dealing poker and who makes beautiful photos by somehow merging printed words and mountains and clouds.

A year, a book, I hope, and, since then, unfathomable loss, everywhere. And I miss my parents, my brothers. But I’m glad Magan’s around.

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Not a novel

Mostly, these days, I read novels. It used to be memoirs. And of course I read a ton of things online: the right amount of features, the right amount of essays and short stories, but too much news, too much sports. But, lately, I’ve read some nonfiction, and this one, from 1991 and by the great Dennis Overbye of the New York Times, is about the heavy lifting that happened in the postwar years that defined the universe–in all its weirdness–for us today. It’s half astronomy, half profile, and if you’re into backstories about things we take for granted (plus, you know, stars, man), this is a solid book.

Thank you for submitting to our literary journal, but you weren’t even close

Thank you for sending us your work. Although we appreciate your interest in our literary journal, we are unable to publish your submission at this time. Writing is a tough business. So tough that, frankly, you were not even close.

We’re aware that writing is hard work, and that often these form letters do not reflect the time and care put into your submission, but other writers who are more talented than you have also submitted their work, and theirs was much, much better. There’s accepted for publication, which is not you, and then there’s close to being accepted, which is also not you. Also not you: anywhere remotely close to being published with this particular literary journal.

You may have gotten the point by now, but in the event that you have not, we will continue. We were very pleased with the quality of the submissions for our upcoming issue. Just not yours, specifically.

We thank you for thinking of us. Other writers who have thought of us include virtually all recent Nobel winners, every Booker Prize winner who is still alive, and Joyce Carol Oates.

In fact, every year, we receive 14×10398 submissions, of which we are only able to publish 0.7 every other year. As we’ve indicated above, you are not in that group of 0.7.

If we may, in closing, we’d like to suggest some of the things we are looking for. These may not apply to your specific work, but they probably do. We’re looking for writing that shines. We’re looking for writing in the sixth person. We’re looking for writing that ikhgdx. We’re looking for writing consisting entirely of active-voice pronouns.

So, while we don’t feel that your writing is right for us at this time, we encourage you to submit to us again!


The Editors

I’m Bob from the Bob’s Red Mill Grain Bags at Whole Foods, and All I Want to Do Is Fucking Murder a Whole Family-size Bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

(Something not-serious I wrote about Bob from Bob’s Red Mill grains.)

By Seth Sawyers

Hi, I’m Bob, the friendly, white-bearded fellow in the newsboy cap from those bags of Bob’s Red Mill grains that you see in your local Whole Foods. I love making Organic Unbleached White All Purpose or Whole Wheat Pastry flours as much as I ever did, but, frankly, I’ve got to make an admission to you. Right now, as I run my fingers through this burlap sack of Gluten Free Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, the only thing I want to do is fucking murder a whole bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.Bobs-Red-Mill-1-3

Don’t get me wrong. When I started this little company decades ago, with my lovely wife, Charlee, I saw a need both in the marketplace and in families’ cupboards for wholesome, healthy, whole-grain flours, oats, and cereals. And right now, as I’m writing this, there is a similar need, in my stomach, for an entire fucking family-size bag of bright-red, 100% non-organic, 100% GMO, 100% fucking awesome Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

I know what you’re thinking. How could Bob, from Bob’s Red Mill, whose smiling, gentle face I see in the grains, sugars, and spices aisle at my high-end organic-focused grocery store, a man who has dedicated his professional life to making my breads, pies, cakes, and cookies more wholesome and delicious, insist on a product composed of factory-farmed “corn,” hydrogenated oils, and chemicals with names longer than a row of western New York State buckwheat? To that I would say: have you ever fucking had a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto? Great. Multiply that by like fucking 800 and you’ll get an inkling about what the goddamn fuck I’m getting at.

Would it help my case or hurt it to let you know that I am ROCK HARD over here? I am Bob from Bob’s Red Mill grains, and I look like Santa Claus’s younger brother who almost graduated from seminary college, and I wear a blue newsboy cap, and I am ROCK HARD just thinking about eviscerating an 8.5-ounce bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Now, before you misunderstand me, let me just allay your fears about my current stance on Bob’s Red Mill specifically and whole-grain baking generally. I was an eater long before I ground my first kernel of rye. I love how whole-grain, organic bread tastes, how it brings my community and family of five children and sixteen grandchildren together here in beautiful Milwaukie, Oregon. Heck, I even love how whole-grain bread feels in my mouth as I chew! But let me be clear: right now I don’t give a fuck about any of that fucking shit. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos essentially motherfucking lacerate your gums, especially when you eat a whole fucking bag of them, bought from Dollar General, washed down with a two-liter of Mountain Dew Pitch Black, while binge-slamming a whole seas-o of Dawson’s Creek. Motherfuckers.

Let me close by acknowledging again how much of a shock this may come to some of you who, over these years of using our lovingly made products in your Sunday breads, your birthday-party cakes, your elementary school bake sale cookies, have come to think of us here at Bob’s Red Mill as almost a part of your family. We could not be more honored. But just know that, at this moment, if I have to sample one more gluten-free rice flour carob sesame bark treat from our test kitchen across the hall, I will kill everyone. I need the radioactive, toxic, non-biodegradable contents of an enormous fucking bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in my head-hole, and I fucking need it now.

All the best to you and your family! Go fuck yourselves!

Classic Social Justice Stories Revamped for the Age of Trump 

Fahrenheit 451. The main guy keeps on burning the books until the end because that’s the law and are we going to be a country with laws and if so are we going to follow them? The book ends with everyone standing for the national anthem. 

To Kill a Mockingbird. A haughty New York lawyer is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man in Alabama accused of rape. After it becomes clear that he did not commit the crime and is about to be found not guilty, Robinson casually mentions to the courtroom how relieved he is that finally the public recognizes that the lives of black people ought to matter just as much as any other. Robinson is immediately found guilty and sent to prison. The book ends as the entire courtroom stands for the national anthem. 

All the President’s Men. Nixon stays in office because it’s The Washington Post which is clearly proto-fake news and Nixon keeps the US in Vietnam through 1976 and beyond. The story ends with Nixon discovering Barack Obama’s actual birth certificate, which states he was born in Mexico and that his father is Osama bin Laden. 

Gandhi. Gandhi is a crisis actor. 

Erin Brockovich. The people with cancer are crisis actors. 

Back to the Future II. Biff, hero casino magnate with hands of normal size, runs for president and vows to make the future great again but is continually hampered in his efforts by Robby McMueller, a politically motivated nasty investigator person. Biff beats the rap and wins over the public by just generally telling it how it is. The movie ends with Robby McMueller not standing for the national anthem. 

12 Angry Men. The other way around, where there’s one juror who wants to convict and he convinces the other 11 to convict based on racial prejudice and also the jurors are even more all white and more all men. The movie ends with all twelve very white very male men standing for the national anthem. 

The Bible. Everything’s the same except that contractors don’t get paid.