Mission Statement Reiterated. Please Don’t Sue Me.
Last week I went to Burger King with my friend, whom I’ll call Joey. Every three weeks, we get our fix of fat and salt, then head over to Barnes and Nobel, where I search for books that they could stock, but don’t. Last week, I looked for Steve Almond, Michael Martone, and PJ Wodehouse. Nada.
While I shamelessly ate a cow, Joey brought up my Letters to James Franco blog. He was concerned that I was shooting myself in the foot. Joey’s argument made perfect sense: I’m an unknown writer who wishes to make a career out of writing books and teaching college classes, and you’re a celebrity actor who has a book published by Scribner, stories in McSweeney’s and Esquire, and several degrees in English Lit and Creative Writing. I’m a mouse stepping into the lion’s den. You’ve got the power to call McSweeney’s and say, “This shitty writer, Don Peteroy, sends you stories once or twice a year. On the off chance he actually bangs out something worthy of consideration, just keep in mind he’s an asshole and a trouble maker.” Hell, you could easily dissuade the public from buying anything I’ve written. One brutal book review from James Franco could wreck my chances of ever getting published again. Maybe.
Am I really a mouse challenging a lion? Is that the impression I’ve given? I certainly don’t feel like I’ve declared war on you. Sure, I’ve used your social multiplicity as a creative writing prompt, a exercise in satire, but I’ve never had the intention of mocking you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your literary ambition neither disturbs nor excites me. If you’ve actually ever read this blog, you probably feel the same way about my aspirations. You’ve probably scanned a few paragraphs, said, “Whatever dude,” and then continued surfing cracked-teeth fetish videos on youporn. Still, I sometimes wonder if I’ll open my inbox and find a cease and desist letter from your lawyer. I’d be upset not because of a potential lawsuit, but because I have to give up something fun. I’d end up arguing on your behalf; I’d suggest that maybe my blog has actually increased the sales of your Palo Alto book. I want you to sell more books.
I used to be a social worker. This was before I signed my life over to graduate school two years ago. I mentored a kid whom we’ll call Max. He was fifteen, had robbed a few houses, had gotten busted for shoplifting a few times, and had been expelled from several schools. Max wasn’t too bright, but that wasn’t his fault. His parents had failed him. They’d taken no interest in his education, had never encouraged his curiosity, and definitely didn’t read to him when he was a child. Instead, they put him in a room with a big TV and an Xbox, and closed the door.
Max loved you. You were his idol. He watched the Spiderman movies again and again, as well as Pineapple Express. When I told him you’re a writer, and were attending college for English, well, I wish you could have seen his confusion. Pure cognitive dissonance. I might as well have told him that you showered with mud balls, ate baseball caps for breakfast, and had been born with two backs, one of which was surgically removed and auctioned off to amputation collectors. Max didn’t believe me, but after one quick Google search, his entire conception of the subject of English changed. This was a miracle, James. Palo Alto wasn’t out yet, but I’ll be damned if this kid didn’t start doing his English homework. I showed up at his house for my next shift, and he was reading The Diary of Anne Frank. He even wanted to talk about the book. Imagine that, James. Your literary ambitions influenced a mostly illiterate kid to crack open a book.
Digressions aside, I support what you’re doing, but I’m still going to make fun of you.