Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guest Post: A Former Random House Intern Speaks Her Effing Mind

This Fresh and Delightful guest post was submitted by Kristen Lippert-Martin on behalf of Jemima McNally, an 103-year old former intern for Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer (Random House, 1925). Kristen's blog is here. Jemima doesn't care much for computers, but she agreed to have her account posted here because the world needs to know the truth about writers.


Look, I’m only back on the job because I’ve outlived my pension. I had no idea this was not a paying thing, but, well, I’m here now, and the bus isn’t due to pick me up for another four hours, so I might as well read some of this slush crap you people are sending in.

It’s been years since I set foot in a publishing house, but to this day, people are still mewling at me, “How can I become a published writer?”

Let me tell you something about writers. I know writers, and I know writing, and I’m telling you right now, none of you is a real writer. That’s right. Go on back to your mama if you can’t take the truth.

Here’s what it took to get published back in my day: You spent years on end in total isolation, banging out a manuscript on a typewriter, working part-time as an assistant fish monger to earn enough money for paper and typewriter ribbons. You sweated a book out of you like yesterday’s gin, and you were only done with it the day you killed yourself. And maybe, just maybe, once you were dead, somebody felt sorry enough for you to pick your manuscript off the floor in your flophouse room, stick it in a box, and send it off to a publisher. Then and only then did you have a shot at success.

Oh, and also, before you wrote your book and killed yourself, you got married a bunch of times and were an ardent, committed alcoholic. Or maybe you were married TO an alcoholic who was bleeding you dry and telling you to go out to Hollywood and make some real money writing scripts instead of wasting yours, hers and everyone else’s best years.

Let me tell you, if people knew you had a son who was a writer, they used to say, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Henderson. I had no idea. Our prayers will be with you.” And then they’d go right to church and light votive candles. Better you were homosexual or a draft dodger than a writer. To be a writer was a desperate, shameful thing.

But now all this internet business has ruined writing forever. You’ve got too much contact with others of your kind. How are you supposed to toil in obscurity when you can just email people whenever it strikes your fancy? And don’t even get me going on blogs. AND! You’ve also got liver transplants. We didn’t have liver transplants back in the day. If you couldn’t work up the courage to put that belt around your neck and hang yourself in the furnace room at your boarding house, you at least had the decency to drink yourself to death.

Also, I don’t understand these younger girls nowadays. Back in my day, the interns were a dating pool for the editorial staff and for the unpublished writers who were trying to pump us for information. We knew it. We accepted it. I slept with loads of writers. One was William Maxwell, and if you don’t know who he is, then you’re an undereducated moron. That man was a real writer. He could make you cry just saying gesundheit, and by God, he could go all night. And I tell you, never once did I feel sexually harassed. Heck, no. I felt honored to slink around with him behind his alcoholic wife’s back. Jesus H. Nobody has any damned discretion nowadays. Where do people find mistresses anymore if not the damned intern pool?

So that’s my advice to you people. If you want to be a real writer, go off by yourself, get rid of your phones and your televisions and your internets, take a few years to write a book, and then when you’re done with it, put it in a padded envelope with a cover letter/suicide note and then go kill yourself.

That’s it. That’s how you get published. You asked and I’m telling you the same thing I’ve told countless writers before you. I’m not here to make you feel good. I’ve been telling it like it is since 1907 and I ain’t gonna stop now.

29 comments:

  1. OMIGOSH this is too funny. It is brilliant, I love it! Why isn't someone giving this 103 year old intern a publishing deal? I'd read 600 pages of this rant and beg for more. Plus I want to know what she has to say about Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Hemingway, Faulkner, Katherine Ann Porter. Oh please make this into a book! Before she dies and her voice is lost to us forever.

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  2. So, you're saying I really am a writer? Fuc$tastic! This calls for another liter of whiskey.

    Word Verification: Distil (as in my soul)

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  3. Hoooly shit that was funny. Nicely done.

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  4. Hey. Why's somebody else peddling around my curriculum vitae? Except she left out the parts about the dipsomaniacal alcohol comas, the benzedrine and tobacco induced phlebitis, the wild forays into the more exotic pharmacopias of self-medicated stupors, and hoosegow and butterfly net factory lockdowns. The withdrawal sweats and pangs and heaves and utter lonelinesses. Plus the knock-down, dragged-out arguments and fights with knuckleheads and boneheaded excretory orifices. No, that isn't me really, not entirely, though I know the writer. But for the grace of Providence, there go I.

    word verve: ableart. Really? An omen, I'm sure.

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  5. I think this novel right now is the one. As soon as I finish it, I'm gonna find me a rope and send us both on our way.

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  6. Man sitting in front of his parents: I have something to tell you. I can't hide it anymore.

    Parents lips quiver: Son, are you one of them homosexuals?

    Man: No, something far worse.

    Parents garb eachother: What are you then?

    Man: A writer.

    Parents sob and hand writer son a noose.

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  7. I could barely breathe for the laughing so hard at this. Awesome!!

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  8. hahaha brilliant.

    And I was a former Random House intern too!! Baaaack in the days of Spring 2009

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  9. Funny, yes. Insane, yes to that too-- and I don't mean that in a good way!

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  10. Brilliant. Simply Brilliant. Makes me want to go read "The Wasteland" again or something. Probably go with the "or something."

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  11. Nice to get some vindication that all my hard work is paying off.

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  12. That's -OMG- funny! telling it like it was ... is!

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  13. LOL! What an unexpected post. Thanks for the laugh!

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  14. She seems to be a lovely woman... :-)

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  15. absolutely brilliant!

    (btw, have you seen "Black Books", the BBC series? you'd love it)

    ...

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  16. Yeah, well, I can *go* all night too...

    So what if it's fishing, I'm still movin'!

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  17. All I can think of is The Chateau I can imagine Maxwell explaining his night with the intern in the same style as his confused reaction to his French county house dinners in the book. And then returning to his diary to figure out his budget minus the two gin and tonics it took to get her between the sheets.

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  18. This is brilliant!! Thanks for the laughs!!
    :-)

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  19. I can't understand why people think this is funny. I hope it was meant as a joke but somehow it just comes off as hateful. It's extremely triggering, for one. I just got out of inpatient for severe bipolar at a hospital that treated Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace. I cry every day because I'm frightened, really frightened, of my illness. It's not artistic and it's not romantic and it's not fucking funny. If I die from my illness and my work is still unpublished, fucking burn it. Don't give any naive kids or batty old ladies the idea that suicide is a super cool way to literary stardom. Thanks.

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  20. I effin' love your blog #1 and #2 this posting was genius.

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  21. Love it! Any book publishers would be thrilled with this.

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