Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dear B.J. Novak

Dear B.J. Novak,

I am writing to you to share an idea that I had for an essay.  I was going to write it myself, but frankly, I just don’t have time.  I mean to be honest, I don’t even really have time to be writing you this letter, but this idea has just been burning like an ember in my mind and I was going to share it with David Sedaris, but to be honest, I think you need it more.  Plus, you don’t have a day job so while I spend my days going to work and the grocery store and then trying to fit in the post office or the gym, you probably sit in a little office that has one of those slanted ceilings that you have to tilt your head just to get to your desk (I am shorter than you so I wouldn’t have to duck) and peck your ideas out on some vintage typewriter (I am very busy so I touch type).  Periodically, you probably lean back in your chair, prop your feet on your desk and sigh a cliche to your cat: ‘This is the life, Boots!’ or ‘It’s just you and me, Boots!’  Since you don’t have to spend your time googling ‘how to impress your boss’ or ‘what’s a good interest rate on a retirement account’ you must really be able to flesh out an idea.  In fact you probably have four or five bad ideas for every good idea.  I wish that I had that luxury.  I don’t even have time to dig into the one really good idea that I do have (mentioned above), let alone time to waste on letting bad ideas develop in the first place.  If you can picture it, my mind is like one of those whack-a-mole games like you see at a carnival, and whenever I feel a bad idea welling up, like buying a robotic vacuum cleaner or adopting a pit bull, I just whack it down before it reaches my mouth (or my computer, if I am touch typing).  

So my idea for an essay is that you should write about when books first became popular and write about how everyone was always looking down at their books instead of looking up at the people, places and things around them.  The joke is that the whole time you will actually be talking about cell phones, not books.  So in the essay, you can write about how people kept crashing horses into each other because they were reading their books or about how birth rates dropped as books became more readily available (make sure not to mention improvements in maternal health care, increased access to birth control or vaccines).  Or you could write about people standing around the pump handle at the village well all talking about a new bestseller.  But what you really are talking about is texting and driving, people not having sex because they are too busy with their phones or how everyone at work is always talking about these viral youtube videos. (which you probably don’t know from experience, but trust me, it happens).  

If I was writing the essay, which I am not (see 1st paragraph) I might include a few small vignettes like this one:

As her father reached for another helping of potatoes, Madyson glanced down at the book in her lap.  As she did, she caught a warning glance from her mother, who had always lived on the fine line between friend and informant.  Her mother gestured with her eyebrows towards her father who had recently grown exasperated with his daughter’s constant reading.  The look said ‘Madyson, for the love of god, put that book away before your father breathes the breath of a thousand dragons at your face!’  In a perfect demonstration of typical teenage behavior, Madyson stared blankly at her mother with her mouth half open for a half a second before refocusing on the book in her lap.  Picking up on the weird vibe, her father’s gaze slowly travelled from his plate across the table to her mothers face and then rotated clockwise until it landed on the downturned head of his teenage daughter.  His breaths grew shallow as he prepared to spew tired rhetoric about ‘I don’t care if other teenagers read at the table, this is my house’ and ‘I WILL take that G.D.  book right out of your sparkly nail polished little hands and drop it down the toilet if it doesn’t disappear from the table NOW and FOREVER!!’

Now here comes the good part of this essay.  What you can do at the end of it is point out that although people used to be obsessed with books, the truth is that they barely even read them anymore.  And so while everyone is so obsessed with their phones and snapchat and Candy Crush (I only know of these from NPR references that I hear in my car on my way to work, see paragraph 1) probably in the future, they will barely even use them because there will be something better and newer and more fun.  It’s tough to imagine but maybe in the future, Verizon or AT&T will go the way of Borders, and if you take this idea, you can say that YOU SAW IT COMING.  It will be difficult to make this point without offending 1) people who love books and 2) people who love phones, but frankly, after reading your last book (to be honest, I mainly stuck to the pieces that were three pages or less) I am not sure that you care about catering to anyone’s delicate sensibilities.  

I would like to remain anonymous as I don’t have time for a detailed and lengthy correspondence with you.  If you can’t figure it out from the details above, then I guess I was wrong about you after all.



P.S.  Why the initials?  Just use your regular name like everyone else.