Mr. Carlson, I assume? Please, come in and have a seat.
Mr. Carlson, although the dictates of modern propriety obligate me to thank you for coming in today, I must assure you that, of the surfeit of emotions your presence has today initiated, gratitude is certainly not among the foremost. Quite the opposite, in fact. You may perhaps be wondering why, then, would I have gone to the considerable trouble of arranging today’s little tete-a-tete, when doing so would be sure to cause me no small degree of aggravation, and would, in fact, cause me to disregard other pursuits of an irrefutably higher necessity and an undeniably greater worth. The answer is simply that, in the face of what I have recently been confronted with, and at your hand, I simply could not be silent. As I am sure you have at this point surmised, I have asked you here today in response to your recent “True-Life Reader Submission” to our publication.
First let me say that I am appalled. Truly and completely appalled. Never, in all my years as editor of this publication, have I looked with such abhorrence upon a literary submission as I do this…how do I even describe it…this flotsam! My good sir, do you think that this is Cheri Magazine that you are writing to? Do you think that this is Barely Legal, perhaps? Do you even know which publication it is to which you are submitting?
That’s right! Penthouse Forum! The gold standard in literary erotica and you come to me with this tripe!
What’s that you say? You thought it was pretty good? Pretty good? My good sir, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying was pretty good. The Bonfire of the Vanities was pretty good. James Joyce’s Ulysses, flawed though it ultimately may be, was, how did you put it, pretty good. This? This reads like a rejected application into the creative writing program at Ball State University!
Sir, I am going to read to you a selection from this Penthouse letter. Quote. “I grabbed her breasts and she started purring. Wow, I thought, I wish Chuck has baseball practice more often!!’End quote.
And your honest expectation is that I would take no issue with that sentence? None at all? Allow me, then, to contradict that assumption. But where to start? With the obvious lack of tense agreement between subject and predicate? Or perhaps we begin with the double exclamation point, that stain on the face of legitimate punctuation so beloved by the under-the-covers journaling set?
Your blank stare speaks volumes that your writing could only hope to aspire.
Never mind. The greatest crimes committed here today aren’t those against grammar. Far from it. This piece lacks any discernable rising action, the character dialogue reads flatter than a pre-Newtonian globe, there is next to no attempt to paint a scenic picture in the mind of the reader outside of the most basic descriptions of form and function; I had to embark on a grammatical scavenger hunt to find even a simple adjective! And when I did come across such an extrinsic modifier, it proved itself to be little more than dime-store rouge smeared, my good sir, on the proverbial porcine proboscis.
“She had a red bra.”
Yes, Mr. Carlson, but what kind of red? The red of a spilled merlot dripping tellingly over the edge of what was once a mahogany dining table, when the family still cared to dine as one? The red of the first rays of sunlight on the last day of man? The red of the blood spilled in a lonely alley by an angry young man that knows not why he fights?
Mr. Carlson, I want you to see something. This is a photograph of Philip Roth and I in Middlebury, Vermont, standing at the gates of the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, the oldest and most prestigious writer’s conference in the country. And, let me tell you, Philip Roth can write a “sexy student needs an A from a lonely professor” story like no other. Perhaps, sir, you don’t recognize the sacred place that this publication holds in the great canon of modern American literature. Last year alone we featured a “pizza delivery boy gets lucky” letter penned by Thomas Pynchon. Michael Chabon wrote about an amatory encounter with a wayward stewardess on a grounded flight to Asia. And our latest issue features a charming little dildo piece from none other than Joyce Carol Oates. The confessional missives in this journal provide, perhaps, the most profound insight into the current state of man’s eternal struggle to comprehend the nature of Eros! So you can understand my incredulity when I read this piece of yours that offers little more than a shroud of paper with which to dry the tears of the great scholars and poets, lamenting, as they would, when they discover what the art of writing Letters to Penthouse has seemingly devolved into. Why, next you’ll be telling me that this confession isn’t even true!
Now, as the constant ringing of my telephone will attest, I have matters of great import to attend to. Please take your leave, and along with it this abortion of erotic literature. I would not deem to sully even my trash can with the likes of this bunkum.
Hello, and thank you for calling Penthouse. Ah, Mrs. Angelou, you wouldn’t believe the day I’ve been having…
Tim Eberle is a Brooklyn-based writer, comedian, and improviser. He is the head writer for Company 29, the sketch company in residence at the Magnet Theater in New York. He is the author of several original sketch comedy shows which have been performed at theaters throughout the country, and his writing has appeared on Jewish Life Television, Jewlicious.com, and in Heeb, among others. He can be seen performing at the Magnet Theater each week with Brick, his long-running improv team.
The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.