Before Sugar, there was Dear Abby and before Dear Abby there was the patron saint of advice columnists, Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts. Upon her passing and in tribute to Pauline Phillips, who wrote the original Dear Abby column before turning it over to her daughter in 2002, below is Jonathan Lethem’s intro to West’s novel, the opening lines of which read something like a template for Phillips’ 46-year gig:
The Miss Lonelyhearts of The New York Post-Dispatch (Are-you-in-trouble? –Do-you-need-advice?–Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. On it a prayer had been printed by Shrike, the feature editor.