Photo by Hallie Cohen
Most writers today are too young to remember the infamous SASE, or self-addressed stamped envelope. The sight of your returned SASE in the mailbox was the equivalent of being stabbed in the back by the STASI before the fall of the Wall. It was tantamount to being extraordinarily rendered by The Company and involuntarily entered in the waterboarding time trials in Tirana.
The advent of email has ruined certain key rites of passage, like receiving a SASE on a gray afternoon in the middle President’s Day weekend, with no possibility of remediation on Monday, it being a federal holiday.
Of course the phone company doesn’t celebrate Lincoln’s or Washington’s birthdays. Why not call and ask for an explanation? Then again, there is no law that says a writer can’t just jump off a cliff.
“Is Max Perkins in?”
“Who, may I ask, is calling?”
“It’s Ernie Hemingway, silly.”
“I see, but I thought you had blown your head off.”
“No, I actually just got scored by a bull’s horns in Pamplona. In Second Life.”
The Phone Doesn’t Ring Twice is a sequel to James M. Cain's famed novel that is just waiting to be written. It deals with the rage growing in the heart of a writer whose calls to editors are nothing but unanswered prayers.
So what is writing, or literature for that matter, without the SASE, the phone, and the notorious publishing lunch? A writer knew he had made it when an editor or agent invited him to lunch. But the publishing lunch has gone the way of Random House's house.
In addition, most of the midtown Manhattan skyscrapers that publishing companies now occupy have become too expensive for what is essentially a cottage industry, and the average Joe, who still dreams of singing for his supper, or lunch, is left to surf the Internet with a bagel.