Dear Mr. Thomas Pynchon

Thank you for taking the time to open this envelope. I know that you, like me, are a very busy and serious man. I am a writer named Rhon Penny (silent h) and I am no longer married. I am writing to you today because I have just finished my latest novel, and it would be my great honor for you to blurb it. If you are unaware, a blurb is a glowing remark you find on the back of a book’s cover written by a highly-regarded author or T.V. chef.

For example if I were blurbing this letter it would go:

       “If you could only read two things this year, make one this letter...and the other maybe the Magna Carta!”

In today's literary climate, it is essential that a new writer obtain a blurb so that Joe Q. Dumbbell will feel confident that a book is worthy of purchase or library rental. As my primary care physician says, “Humans are fickle pickles,” which, while true, has never really explained why he has me on such a complicated smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals. I am very tired.

Like yourself (no doubt) I find blurbing absolutely repulsive. It is crass, pathetic, and couldn’t be less artistic. Just so you know, I am only doing this because the more I think about it, the more I would like to make a lot of money. Full disclosure: I named my conjoined Siamese cats Tommy and Pinchie. Tommy died not long ago, which makes   movement  difficult for Pinchie.  But she pushes on like a feline boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (F. Scott Fitzgerald).

 Like blurbs, an author’s choice of title is very important for sales. Take your masterwork, "Gravity's Rainbow." That is a terrific title. Why? Because it tells you exactly what the book is about. I would like to think that my book’s title does the same: "Cream of America Soup."

Okay. By this point, I am going to assume that you have agreed to blurb, so let me just say, “Thank you.” I’ve taken the liberty of creating a few sample blurbs for you to affix your name and well-deserved reputation to. Here they are:

       “Fifteen thumbs up!”
       "It is not for me to say if Ron Penny is a great new young talent, but I will say this: Yes, he is greatly talented, and no, he is not young!" [Note the misspelling of “Rhon.” This will get people talking.]
       "While reading Rhon Penny's latest novel I could not help but think that it was so much better than "Gravity's Rainbow" that I should give up writing. I am not even lying right now!"

You have to be wondering: What in the world is this novel I’ve agreed to blurb actually about? Well, it’s very much like "Gravity's Rainbow" in a way, and in other ways, not at all. It's also very much a post-9/11 book, but not overtly. I'm not saying you need to know a lot about the medieval feudal system, Lady Byrd Johnson, bats, or linguine...but it wouldn't be such a bad thing if you did.

Before I sign off, I suppose I should address the giant elephant in this letter. Yes, if you blurb my book I will blurb your next one. I just have a funny feeling that I’m going to “adore” and “love” and “highly recommend” the thing! Also, feel free to keep the enclosed sign that reads “Danger! Writer’s Zone!” That was a gift.

I look forward to seeing how you decide to praise me. Self-addressed envelope included. Stamps, not.

Yours in the words,
Rhon Penny

 

Scott Rothman is a screenwriter living in New York City.

 

Mike Sacks is a writer on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair. His first book, "And Here’s the Kicker," was published in summer, 2009.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.