by Rachel Cantor
I would like to recommend myself to your attention. I am but a young man but well read in the Classics and Literature—to wit, the Greeks, Romans, and Romantics. If you like, I could produce pieces for you on a regular basis displaying my knowledge of said topics for the edification or even (sometimes!) the amusement of your readers, of whom I have been one for seven and one-half happy years. If these topics be not of urgent interest to your outstanding editorial staff—though they should be! they should be!—you have but to name a subject and chances are I have some knowledge of it and can produce pieces of illumination upon it. Truly, I have matched wits with the sharpest minds I know, which are many, and have reason to think mine the subtlest and most refined, which you shall see as soon as you request samples of my work, which I will send you promptly, together with some Poems. You have only to say the word.
I look forward to a long and mutually profitable relationship.
Your humblest servant,
Dear Mr. Poet Laureate,
Please forgive this trifling missive from a poor young person who would become a Writer. I have striven all my years to tell tales as might both entertain and instruct, and have created upwards of four hundred pages. I have the will, you see, to make of my life a Writer’s Life—I need only assurance that I should. I pray that I can call upon your patient kindness to read but a few of the enclosed pages and make for me an assessment, for I know not one soul who could otherwise make it for me, and trust not my own judgment.
I await your reply with trembling hand.
I have yet to hear in reply to my letter offering my services as Writer for your esteemed magazine, which I have been reading faithfully, and commenting upon for all who would hear, for just shy of eight years. I think perhaps my letter has not reached you, or maybe you are one of those arrogant sorts who believe the only minds of worth are those already encountered! That one cannot be found, in other words, outside one’s existing sphere of limited experience! This is not true, my friend! Out here in the “hinterlands”—we live in the same city, after all!—there are many a man of intellect willing and, in my case, able to share his thoughts in an electrifying manner, as befits your magazine. Perhaps you are now convinced and will request an example of my “little pieces.” Believe me, I have a number ready to go which will please your readers, just as they have pleased my numerous friends and widespread acquaintance.
I look forward to hearing from you, and entering into a lifelong “friendship of letters.”
I enclose one of my Poems, in case it argues in my favor.
Your humblest servant,
Dear Mr. Poet Laureate,
Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter: it was elegant in its brevity. I fear, however that you may have misunderstood my intent: I did not wish a blurb from your august hand—not knowing what a blurb might be—nor even a recommendation (and I am at a loss as to what you might recommend—a book, perhaps? But I have read nearly everything worth reading, though not, alas, your entire oeuvre, though I do rather enjoy perusing your latest volume on sticky nights when sleep is hard to come by. Be reassured: if it were book recommendations I wanted I would seek the aid of a librarian or bookseller—I should not trouble our Poet Laureate!). I fully appreciate that you have a policy which you would apply blindly against any who would ask for a blurb or a recommendation and I applaud you, for any policy should be applied blindly if it is to be applied at all. I did, however, appreciate the eight-by-ten glossy which you so graciously enclosed, and felt there was instruction to be had from that, for how stately and grave is your appearance, as you stare abstractly into a black-and-white distance, your pipe nearly forgotten in your hand! When I asked about the Writer’s Life (and some small measure of encouragement), I imagine it was this I wanted to know: how might I manage to affect such gravity and stateliness, and such a model you have now given me to follow! I am distinctly grateful! Thank you also for the discount coupon! I might now save nearly a dollar when purchasing your latest book, which could make all the difference.
I regret that you found it disconcerting not knowing whether I was accomplished gentleman or dilettante housewife. I can appreciate that this knowledge may have influenced your reading of my poor work, and indeed been determinative, had you read it, but as you did not, by your own confession, I conclude no harm was done by the omission, and am much relieved!
So thank you—or rather, thank your kindly assistant, Miss Frumm—for her little note, which I shall frame forthwith as a stellar example of efficiency, wit, and style.
Rachel Cantor is the author of the novels A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neatsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World and Door Number Two, both forthcoming from Melville House. She has published 20 stories in magazines such as the Paris Review, One Story, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and Fence. “Dear Sirs” is part of a series she is writing based on the lives of the Brontë siblings. She lives in Brooklyn.