Monday, October 31, 2011

Jay Morris


Fiction by Jay Morris

Dear Uncle Jay:
My friend Irwin says I should quit my job as an assistant paint store manager so that I can become a towering literary figure and be hailed as the voice of my generation. What do I have to do, take a test or something?
--B.W., Racine, Wis.

Yes. Gone are the days when a lonely, desperate figure has to huddle in a cold garret for years, scrawling on scraps of paper, risking health and sanity while attempting to express the measure of his or her soul in elegant prose. It’s too much trouble.
Now you may simply put in for the position of literary “Voice of a Generation” by picking up an application at any Post Office or Radio Shack, and attaching letters of recommendation from two people willing to state that, to their knowledge, you have never before been named Voice, Conscience, or Savior of this or any other generation. Enclose two dollars for postage and handling and in four to six weeks you’ll receive notification of where and when to take the test.
Copies of the test are available. To receive one, send a bribe to:
Kenneth Darwell
Behind the Water Cooler
Government Printing Office
Boulder, Colorado
The bribe should be in the form of cash or McDonald’s Gift Certificates. Here’s a free sample of the exam, taken from the section testing literary sensibility:

1.What is the most important element of a modern novel?

A) A deeply moving narrative exploring eschatological ideas, ending with hard-won
affirmation of man’s place in the universe
B) Flattering jacket photo of the author
C) Sequential pagination

ANSWER: B. The favorite pose of literary authors is one that stresses robust masculinity, with the shirt open, displaying a massive, hairy chest—see Gertrude Stein.

2. Your name is Emilio Crum. You have written a novel called Spam City. Which of the following reviews would be better to receive?

A) “Crum has abandoned plot, character, and ideas as necessary components of a novel. His
book is a bold cry against the tyranny of ‘quality fiction.'"

B)“In Spam City, Emilio Crum, author of Shemp—Stooge of the Gods, proves thatthe
literary question is not ‘Who?’ or ‘What?’ or even ‘Why?’--it is ‘Huh?’ He impales our
preconception that fiction should be ‘enjoyable’ on a lance of insipidness honed in an
atmosphere in which pronounced cranial vacuity is our only hope.”

ANSWER: B. The name of your book is mentioned.

3. Do you write good?

ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS: “Yes, most goodly.” “Indeed-a-roonie!” “Who wants to know?”

4. If you are not accepted as “Voice” of your generation, would you be willing to accept another role? Number the following choices in order of preference.
A) Bursa Sac of a Generation
B) Nasty, Hacking Cough of a Generation
C) Knuckle Crack of a Generation
D) Valet Parker of a Generation

ANSWER: A trick question. None of these titles exist except “Nasty, Hacking Cough of a Generation” and that’s already been assigned to Mickey Rourke.

5. Why won’t Steven King ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

A) Genre writers are generally disparaged in literary circles
B) Too dang funny-lookin’

ANSWER: B. It’s easy to write scary stories if inspiration is as close as the nearest mirror.

6Why do you want to be the literary “Voice” of your generation?
A) To focus the collective energy and ideas of a particular group of people who lived at a
particular time in history, establishing its place in the ongoing intellectual and cultural
evolution of Mankind
B) Ten percent discount on dry-cleaning

ANSWER: B. Do you know how expensive dry-cleaning is these days?

SCORING: If you answered all six questions correctly, you are either a genius born to be one of the leading literary voices in modern America, or a big fat cheat. Either way, you’ll go far. If you got between one and five answers correct, chances are you will do better in some field other than literature. If you answered none of the questions correctly, check for a brain tumor.  

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