A Modest Book Proposal from Pete Maynard, Author of M__y Dick

Christian TeBordo

Dear editor,

Congratulations on the success you’ve had with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I’m sure it’s well-deserved, even though I haven’t actually had the chance to read it yet. There’s a waiting list for it at the local library and I don’t need to tell you I’m a long way down, plus I can’t afford to just go out and buy a copy.

Listen, this is what it’s about right here and now.

Maybe you’ve heard of M__y Dick? I would bet you haven’t read it, and I bet I’d win that bet because I’d be leaving nothing up to chance. Here’s why: nobody has read M__y Dick. Scratch that. Nobody but me has read M__y Dick, because there’s only one copy in existence and it’s right here in my apartment, right here on this very desk I am writing to you from. That was the whole point. M__y Dick was just for me, for my own self-improvement. Of course, that didn’t stop them from talking about it, which was fine at first, and then it was not.

But maybe I’m not making myself clear? It happens. It happens more than I’d like. Let me try harder.

Back when I still had the job I was not just resting on my laurels like some people or trying to get ahead by making my coworkers look bad like others. I was doing it the American way, with bootstraps and elbow grease and stick-to-itiveness. Self-improvement, I mean.

Like for instance last year I did my vacation to Colonial Williamsburg instead of the beach or something. Did you know that in the 1700s they had a black guy there named Gowan something-or-other who was a Baptist preacher and not only was not a slave but even owned land? I didn’t, not until that trip. I wondered if the other ones, the white ones and such, treated him with respect even though he was black, but could not think of how to say it.

Then when fall came I thought that the theme of my self-improvement must be America, but there isn’t much you can do about it when the weather gets cold, so I figured I might as well read a book. The book. The great American novel, which is Moby Dick.

A literary person like you has probably read Moby Dick about twenty times or how else would you know what would make a good monster mashup. Me, I had not read it before, and I’m sorry to admit I did not really like it once I tried. I like a good high seas adventure as much as the next red-blooded American male, but there did not seem to be much of that in the book, or maybe I was reading it wrong. Anyway, it did not relate to me as a modern person, and I kept falling asleep trying to read it. It got to where I brought it to work, where I really could not just go to sleep, to read on my lunch break, but I still was almost nodding off every day and was about to finally give up when I got an idea.

One lunch, I was sitting at my desk with the book open but looking around asking myself if I shut the book would it also mean shutting the book on self-improvement and then my eyes landed on my pen jar. The Sharpie in there stands out like a sore thumb because it’s so much thicker than all the pens and pencils, and I reached for it without really thinking. Sometimes I like to uncap it and see how long it takes the fumes to fill my cubicle, but this was not one of those times. This time I wanted to see how long it took me to blacken everything I’d read that day.

Not very long, it turned out. Maybe it was the idea of having something to do with my hands while I read, maybe it was the smell of the marker, but soon I wasn’t just following the reading, I was absorbing it. And it was fun. Fun enough that I went back to the beginning, which was only thirty or so pages, and started from the start. Fun enough that I took the Sharpie and the book home with me and made it through another fifty pages. The next day I did ten more at lunch and seventy that night. I would have done more if I’d grabbed a whole handful of Sharpies, but I didn’t get the idea to grab a whole handful until the first one crapped out on me in the middle of the second night.

Clarification: that first Sharpie crapped out on me in the middle of the second night, but I did not go and grab a handful of Sharpies from the office supply cabinet in the middle of the night. Those were two separate things!

Language: it’s tricky. That was the whole point. Then and now.

So the third day I grabbed a whole handful of Sharpies from the supply cabinet, and after that I always had two or three with me to be prepared, which was a good thing because by then I was really plowing through that book. At the end of two weeks I had almost the whole thing read and blackened, less blackened than read, though, because a few days in I had hit on the idea of not blackening anything that was relevant to me as a modern person, which, let’s be honest, was not much, but still.

The day came when I only had about fifteen pages left at the end of my lunch, and I decided to keep going to the end, and just as I got to the last page, somebody said, “What is that smell?”

I think it was Anne. Not the smell, but the person in the office who asked the question. I wasn’t really paying attention because I was so close to the end.

Somebody else said: “Are you sniffing markers in there again, Maynard?”

That was Vick. I know for sure because I looked up as he stepped into my cube about three seconds later. He started coughing and waving his hands like he was going to die from Sharpie fume inhalation. I went back to M__y Dick.

“The fumes are a byproduct,” I said, blackening another line.

“Of what?” said Vick.

“Of M__y Dick,” I said.

“What the fuck are you trying to say?” said Vick.

When he said that I realized that what I’d said could be taken a certain way. I looked up to explain, but he’d seen what I was up to and was standing over me already.

“What’s that?” he said, and grabbed the book from my hands. “Moby Dick?”

He started flipping through the book, first a page at a time and then a fan that blew his hair back a little, another gust of fumes to his face.

“It’s all blacked out?” he said.

“No,” I said, grabbing the book back, flipping it open to a particular page, and handing it to him.

“‘My Dick?’” he read, “‘Squeeze the sperm?’”

He tossed the book on my desk.

“There’s something wrong with you,” he said, and walked out.

I shrugged but there was no one left in my cube to shrug to. I went back to the book and blackened the last lines, but to tell the truth it was not as satisfying to finish as I thought it would be. I left it sitting on the edge of the desk and got back to work.

So what’s the big deal? you’re probably asking. Why is this guy wasting my extremely valuable time telling me about a book he doesn’t even want me to publish which has nothing do with, and is really pretty much the opposite of, my specialty, which is monster mashups?

A: I’m getting there as fast as I can! This is the exposition, and the climax of the exposition is that they got me. Vick must have told some of the other guys in the office about what happened, and one of the other guys complained to the boss that it was third party sexual harassment which I don’t even know what that is. The boss didn’t either, so she fired me for theft of company property when they noticed we were out of Sharpies.

Listen, I’m not going to pretend I think it’s fair, but one of the things about self-improvement is that you can’t dwell on the past. You’ve got to move forward without regrets and take no prisoners, so what I did was I found a lesson in all of it which is this:

There’s two ways of doing things: addition and subtraction. Me, with my blacking out of Moby Dick, I was subtracting. You with your mashing up of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you were adding. That’s why I’m broke and you’re making money hand over fist.

Well I’m ready to add. I’m ready to make money hand over fist, so without further denouement, here is the big additional idea:

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein!

I probably don’t need to explain to you that it will be the story of a smart, innocent young girl in hiding from the Nazis who gets the idea to create a monster, the original monster mashup, to wreak her vengeance upon them, but it backfires and the monster ends up hurting her and the people she loves. What you might not realize is that all it will take to make is a little cutting and pasting. Here is an example:

According to the powers that be, I’m supposed to grin and bear it. But I can’t! I have no intention of taking their insults lying down. I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday. They’ll sit up and take notice and keep their big mouths shut when I make them see they ought to attend to their own manners instead of mine.

It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. 

Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking, how do these two old stories have any relevance to us as modern human beings? Two things:

It’s true that this is not exactly like what you did with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by combining an old thing that is not relevant like Pride and Prejudice, which if you check their Wikipedia is actually about love, with something ultramodern that everybody cares and worries about such as zombies, and it’s also true that all of the parts don’t fit together as smoothly as the example I just showed you. A lot of the words of Frankenstein sound old-timey, while Anne Frank sounds pretty modern except less swearing. But the way around that is to use Babel Fish or something to translate the whole thing into Japanese and then back into English. Then we can have somebody turn it into a Manga by drawing Anne Frank sexier, with big eyes and whatnot. Then it would be even more of a mashup!

Even if you don’t know any Manga artists there is still thing number two:

Frankenstein is about resurrection, I think, and Anne Frank is about a girl and her family in hiding from the Nazis. Like you didn’t already know these things! The point is, they are not exactly on the cutting edge of the mind of every person you meet. But when you combine them, they are about revenge, which everyone is thinking about all of the time!

Okay, maybe not you. I know, you’re not like everyone else. You live the life of the mind in an ivory tower made of gold that you earned from your fabulous success in the book biz. But what about everybody else? What about the little man? The guy sitting at home with nothing but a bunch of old library books that mean nothing to him because he got fired from his job over some pardononnez moi francais bullshit, and he can’t afford to buy the modern ones which are all checked out of the library, and every second he feels like he might just go postal because he doesn’t have the possibly illustrated story of someone like Anne Frankenstein and the monster she creates to just, you know, gorily disembowel her enemies with righteous fury, to keep him company and to identify with.

Going postal! What a fucking laugh. I told you I worked in a cubicle, and personally, I believe that living well is a dish best served cold. That’s why I’m writing you today. Please consider giving me about a bathtub full of cash for this awesome idea. Or we can work out the details later. Or else, you could have somebody else, like a real writer, write it, and maybe send me a free copy. Or at least pull some strings at the library so I could get up on the waiting list?

If you’re not interested in The Diary of Anne Frankenstein we could talk about M__y Dick. But I need something, please and soon.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Pete Maynard