Some extract a “me” from media – works that foment the development of our personalities and provide a model for who we may become. Critics of mine might suggest “Revenge of the Sith” and “Midnight Cowboy” as personal touchstones to which I would respond, “Yeah, I’m walking here, I’m walking here – on the dark side.” Those who actually know me, however, are likely to suggest the novellas “Ms. Lonelyhearts” and “Day of the Locust,” both penned by Nathanael West, in 1933 and 1939 respectively. The first recounts a newspaperman’s self-sacrifice to his “advice for the lovelorn” column and the other is a seamy vivisection of the moribund underbelly of Hollywood’s aspirant class. Both novellas wove their wicked poetry into my DNA (and, later, my career) when I discovered them paired in a single volume published by New Directions in 1969.
I was 14 years old, teetering on becoming a high school dropout and lounging in a loft situated over my parent’s garage in which they kept the overflow of their library. There, I’d sneak cigarettes, paint anti-authoritarian murals on the walls and attempt seductions of girls with dyed-black hair. The book’s cover, a crowd scene rendered in black and white and overlaid with a fractured gray heart, caught my eye as did the tiny yellow “used” sticker on its spine. A few hours later, I had inhaled the dark, wry tales of writerly dissipation and the degradation that accompanies outsized ambition. West’s work was much needed mental nutrition for a media diet that was otherwise larded with ‘80s popular culture. I share this with you, darlings, so as to introduce the bits below – my ersatz advice column, with which I hope to emulate a West-esque gravitas.
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Dear DH: First you write about your cold, then you write about your birthday. Are you so deluded you actually think we want to read about this garbage? Try writing a real news story sometime, and quit the Daedalus Vanity Project that is your column. – Jane2323.
Dear Jane: (If that is indeed your real name) Every time you email me you dismantle your address so my replies bounce back. Fortunately, our in-house IT experts (two named Bob and another called Berry) were able to triangulate your identity via your fixed IP address, regardless of your sham addresses. We know who you are (and what you’re wearing). Please note, this half of Page 16 is devoted to satire of the social- and self- variety, not news, which you repeatedly insist that I write, to the chagrin of our news team who, thanks to you, is beginning to feel inadequate. As for my delusions about people wanting to read this garbage – apparently YOU read it. I suggest that you remove it from your media diet immediately as there’s a slight chance that “you are what you read.” But enough of this witty banter – I’ll see you at the Fig at 2 p.m., Friday, August 1. You’ll recognize me by my “Vanity Project.” How’s yours coming, by the way? First pinto’s on me. – DH
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Dear DH: Do Noma-Girls buy their beverages at Bev-Mo, bank at WAMU and previously worked [sic] at Mickey D’s? No, Dae, it still isn’t “Nomaville” or Tuscany, only in your mind does this manifestation take place. P.S. We don’t care how big your wife’s breasts are… Little fishes in small ponds. – Unsigned (handwritten on a photo of a brick wall).
Dear Stalker: Haven’t heard from you in a while – I was worried that you got a job or something. As for your query regarding NomaGirl, I’m not sure where she buys the booze, but I’ll ask her at the Sonoma Valley Green Music Festival (see page 29). By the way, thanks for the extended rant. I needed the quote to make my word-count, otherwise, I’d have to resort to writing “Nomaville” and “Tuscany” to pad it out. As for my wife’s breasts, you perv, keep you eyes where we can see them. Also, keep sending those fingerprint and handwriting samples! – DH
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Update: I went to the Girl and the Fig at the appointed time, but Jane 2323 was a no-show. The shame.