Displaying articles for: September 2011

Revenge of the S&P


This has been a turbulent month for stocks as Standard and Poor’s continue to downgrade companies and countries. S&P are now on a path to reevaluate more than just corporations. Are S&P undervaluing the economy or are they finally willing to admit that all is not well in the world?

Last week the famed financial watchdog announced that Moby-Dick is no longer a brilliant novel but merely “tolerable.” This sent shockwaves throughout the literary and financial world. Things worsened when S&P formally announced that they don’t quite “get” James Joyce’s Ulysses, causing some experts to quietly whisper, “It’s about time.”

According to new values announced by S&P, The Scarlet Letter is not a perennial classic but “OK, if you like that sort of thing.” Book sellers have since seen sales decrease by a significant 0.07% as a result.

Orange juice futures plummeted on fears of what S&P will say about Ethan Frome. (The connection between Ethan Frome and oranges is storied and complex.) The tech market was volatile after news leaked that A Tale of Two Cities would be downgraded to, “Not bad.”

Industry analyst Mark Harrison said, “It’s a scary time. I’d hate to be a literary icon. Rumors are floating around that the annual report on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes the phrase ‘adequate at times.’ That’s not exactly the phrasing one would hope to hear when discussing Twain.”

Despite recent trends, not all books have been downgraded. S&P surprised Wall Street and booksellers by saying, “Jurassic Park still holds up.” And Stephen King’s The Stand has been officially described as, “Sooooo good!”   

Yet Harrison is quick to point out that the positive rankings are too few and far between. “The government needs to step in. The president needs to say that Of Mice and Men is unequivocally great. Failure to do that would be catastrophic.”  Washington is leery to act after an attempt three years ago to call Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix, “Good,” backfired amongst young voters who wanted the president to say it was, “Really good.”

A Washington insider who demanded we call him Mr. Cosmic, said, “We know The Great Gatsby is great. Of course we know it. But there’s an election year looming and no one wants to make waves by artificially boosting a book’s score. Once you go against S&P and say Gatsby is great, then the Gravity’s Rainbow people start arguing for their book to be reassessed as a classic. It’s a snowball effect. We don’t have the manpower needed to read Gravity’s Rainbow.”

(At the time this article was filed, S&P had downgraded The Great Gatsby to, “Pretty dull, especially in the middle.” Gravity’s Rainbow was downgraded to, “Weird,” but was briefly raised to, “Kind of cool,” before plummeting back to, "Totally bonkers.")

Experts agree that the market will repair itself eventually. "People will start calling Catcher in the Rye a classic again,” said Harrison. “But it won’t happen overnight. The damage done was extensive. We’re talking years and years of reputation building. Hopefully James Cameron will make a movie about Catcher in the Rye to remind everyone that it’s good."

The storm clouds are gathering over products besides books. S&P recently called “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, “Alright, I guess,” and when asked about The Godfather they simply shrugged and said, “Meh.” Of course, S&P might be going through some stuff at home, causing them to be disinterested in popular items. Or maybe they’re just being difficult to get attention. That would explain why they recently all got earrings and called The Grand Canyon, “Lame.”

Tomorrow S&P will announce new values for sandals, the first Matrix movie, and their Senior Prom. Wall Street, the world, and Samantha Jameson who went to prom with one of the S&P guys, anxiously wait. 


Dan Bergstein is a freelance writer who lives in Pennsylvania, just as the prophecy foretold.


Signing Off




     "I don't want to trouble you--just your name is great. Oh--in blood, if that's OK. And yours and mine mixed."

       "Could you sign this 'To Deborah, from Michael Chabon, on behalf of his good friend Jimmy Mathers, who as I understand it you've dumped for that idiot Norman, who thinks that Michael Chabon is a mediocre middleweight UFC fighter. He really does. Jimmy told me he actually heard you say that at the Dew Drop Inn last Saturday night.' --Michael Chabon. Oh, and date it, please, so that 'Last Saturday night' will make sense. Thanks."

     "I just loved your book. You are Kathryn Stockett, right?... Oh, sorry, Ms. Hocking. But could you sign it 'Kathryn Stockett' anyway? I'm betting it will be worth a fortune on e-bay."

     "Your book spoke to me in a way that nothing has spoken to me since I was an angsty teen, when I was assigned The Catcher in the Rye in school, and blew it off, and instead listened to radio-commercial jingles for a week. Man, those tunes changed me."

     "I really liked it, until the last fifty pages. Could you try a little rewrite in my copy when you go on your break?"

     "I normally find reading difficult, but your book was written at such a low grade level, it hardly felt like reading at all."

     "We're going to spread the word and let everyone know how much we loved your novel 'Born Elsewhere.' Even though the book has nothing to do with the President,  your name will be inseparable from the Birthers Book Club."

     "Decent book, but would've been much better with more emotions. Whoops, I misspoke: not emotions--emoticons."

     "It must feel great, to be a published author, even if you have to realize that you're making less of an impression on the national psyche than a contestant rejected from the first round of The Bachelorette."

     "What's your Twitter handle? And Facebook fan page? And email? And home address? And phone number? And social security number? And age at which you lost your virginity? And your feelings upon losing your virginity? And anything else you care to share about the experience of losing your virginity? I mean, what's it really like?"

     "Just draw me a funny picture, like a photorealistic depiction of the Sistine Chapel. Something wacky like that."

     "Where do you get your ideas from? They're pretty lame, to be honest, so I want to know to avoid that strategy."

     "How many books have you sold so far? Maybe you think that's just another way of asking how much money you make? OK--how much money do you make?'"

     "So brilliantly meta, the way you criticized American culture in your book and wrote an
intentionally bad novel. Kudos, sir--kudos."

     "When does the video-game version come out?"

     "I have a great idea for a book. Want to write it for me on a shoestring advance--some free shoestrings, I mean--and if it sells, you'll get a ten percent cut? This is, by the way, pretty close to how regular publishing works."

Teddy Wayne is the author of Kapitoil.


July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.