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.  

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About Letters to James Franco

My name is Don Peteroy. I'm a PhD. candidate at University of Cincinnati. My major has a long name, so try to say it in one breath: "English and Comparative Literature with a Creative Dissertation." I spent the majority of my adult years as a social worker. I decided it's pointless to help people, so I've devoted the rest of my life to reading and writing. Here's all my publications and works in progress: My novella, "Wally," published by Burrow Press, in the fall of 2012. Novella: "A World Without Owls" Unpublished. Novel: "My Helicopter Heart" Unpublished. A failed playwright stalks Kirsten Dunst during the Christian apocalypse. My short story, "The Circuit Builders" is the winner of the 2012 Playboy College Fiction contest, and will appeared in the October 2012 issue. Here's are more published and forthcoming short stories: "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye": Arcadia Magazine 7, 2014. "Kurt Vonnegut Didn't Like Me" Online Sundries, 2/14 http://www.arcadiamagazine.org/4/post/2014/02/kurt-vonnegut-didnt-like-me.html "Because I Want to Know You" forthcoming reprint in Short Story America "A Hole Without A Rim," forthcoming in the Florida Review "Keeping it for Good," The Heartland Review. Forthcoming. “A Penny In A Pill Bottle,” Dislocate, Winter 2012. “Because I Want to Know You” Yemessee, 19.2, 2002. “The Sluggers” Santa Carla Review. Spring 2012. “Maps and Legends” Chattahoochee Review. Spring 2012. “Melinda, Listen to Me” Permafrost, vol. 33, 2011. “Rondo” Licking River Review, Fall 2011. “The Ugly Marriage Counselor” Eleven Eleven, vol.11, 2011. “The Healing Frequency” Newport Review, Summer 2011. “His Name Equals His Name” The Ultimate Writer Magazine, Summer 2011. “This Is How I Will Hold You” The Westchester Review, vol. 5, 2011. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” Worcester Review, vol. 31.1, 2011. “Too Much Anthropology” Cream City Review, vol. 34.2, 2011. “There Are No Fragments” Ellipsis, vol. 46, 2010. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Farallon Review, vol.3, 2010 “One Day, God Will Kill Everyone” Oyez Review, vol. 37, 2010. “When Hawks Make Love” The Susquehanna Review, Fall 2009. “Goddess Corpse” The Maynard, Fall 2009. “Misconceptions About the Nature of Blood” CRIT Journal, Summer 2009. “Go Up” The Cynic, Fall 2009. “The Misuse of Old British Words” Two Hawks Quarterly, Spring 2009. “Dead or Unlisted” The Rejected Quarterly, Spring 2003. “Sleep Log” The Timber Creek Review, Spring 2002. There are other stories out there, somewhere, but I've lost track. Awards: “From One Object to Another.” Finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Award, 2009. “His Name Equals His Name” Finalist for the Gulf Coast Donald Barthelme Award, 2009. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. "A World Without Owls." Finalist, Gold Line Press Chapbook Contest, 2011. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Sacramento Stories on Stage Series in California, June 2011. "The Circuit Builders" winner of the Playboy College Fiction Award 2012. "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye" nominated for a Pushcart Award.

One response to “Mission Statement Reiterated. Please Don’t Sue Me.”

  1. Sara Rajan says :

    Hello-

    I was wondering if you knew whether or not the 2012 Playboy Fiction Contest selected 2nd and 3rd place winners yet?

    Congrats, by the way!

    -S.R.

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