Too Controversial for McSweeney's

SEPTA circa 2006

thanks to Adam Boysen and Brandl Frey and MQT

From the Cutting Room Floor of Jane Austen (AKA Conversations with my Ex)

Me: I can’t believe I let you take those photos of me. Thank God I took them with me.
Him: I have copies of those photos, numb-nuts.

Me: Well, I guess we all need to learn.
Him: Even young girls, Abbi. Even they need to learn. You can’t protect them.
Me: I just wish they didn’t have to cut their teeth on your nuts.

Him: Did I ever tell you about the time my girlfriend got an abortion?
Me: Oh, that old "chestnut.”

Him: Do you know what all guys want?
Me: I don’t think I’m going to be able to stomach this.
Him: They want a row of women leaning over, with just their asses showing.
Me: Ah.

Him: Where the fuck is my notebook???!!!
Me: I don’t know.
Him: I’m FUCKED. It has all my notes. I need it for the exam.
Me: Where did you see it last?
Him: My ex’s apartment.
Me: Oh. Yeah. It’s probably gone.

Me: How’s the collaborative poem?
Him: Someone added “comma”. What kind of word to add is "comma"!? It's like that pretentious but actually middle-brow sentence Wallace lampoons in WESTWARD THE COURSE OF EMPIRE: "Nouns verbed by, adverbially adjectival." I hate everyone.

Him: She’s definitely gained weight.
Me: She just ran a marathon! What the fuck are you talking about?
Him: Yeah, but you can see it. Her pants looked tight on her ass. She does wear tight clothes, though.

Him: How’s your Nietzsche paper coming?
Me: I’d rather not discuss it.
Him: I wrote out some thoughts about the first section.
Me: Lay it on me.
Him: So you like this guy. He’s so hot! You’d totally fuck him. But he likes your friend. She’d totally fuck him. So you call your friend a slut! And because she’s a slut, you must be, I don’t know, good. This evil / good, the language of Resentment.
Me: Can I call you back, my dad’s calling.

Me: I found photos of your students on your mom’s computer. Um. Why do you have those?
Him: You know how you have photos of all your friends? Well I don’t. So I have these.
Me: Right, but they don’t know you have them. If I told them you saved their photos to a folder, would they think that was normal?
Him: Abbi, you are fucking psycho. Why were you LOOKING AT MY PICTURES!!??!!

Him: Thanks for letting me borrow your car.
Me: Thanks for picking me up… Why is the passenger seat of my car reclined?
Him: What? Oh. I gave Oscar a ride, and he wanted to sleep.
Me: When? What do you mean?

Me: I need to know. Did you cheat on me? If you did, it’s OK. I just need to know.
Him: Aaarrrgh.
Me: Please tell me. I can’t handle lying.
Him: Have you seen my copy of Unterwegs zur Sprache?
Me: It’s in the kitchen.

Me: What did you think about my email?
Him: No, none of these define me. I have passed remorse. And I have been eating my critics, so I feel no irritation from them.
Me: I see.

Him: I’m going to drink this entire bottle of vodka.
Me: They say it’s good to have goals.

Me: [lying in bed] You were flirting with her. You flirt with everyone. It’s an open secret.
Him: That’s bullshit! You are just possessive and jealous.
Me: Maybe, but you are a flirt.
Him: By your definition, if I talk to someone, I’m flirting with them.
Me: No. You talk to people in a lecherous manner.
Him: I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! [jumps out of bed and flips on the light.] You are not going to be satisfied until you’ve sucked the life out of me! [aims leg at door separating bedroom from living room and kicks the door out of the wall.]
Me: [sitting up] What the fuck are you doing?
Him: You are going to destroy me!
[grabs mattress I’m sitting on and begins pulling it off the bed, dragging me along. I hold onto it for dear life. He pulls it all the way into the living room and collapses on the couch.]
Me: You need to calm down.
Him: [crouching over me.] Do you love me?
Me: What?
Him: Do. You. Love. Me. Please say it!
Me: I can’t right now.
[cut to him standing on a ladder, naked, hammering the door back into its hinges.]

Him: Did I tell you about the time my mom found me masturbating?
Me: Yes.

Me: What is this?
Him: What? Oh. That. It’s nothing.
Me: It’s not nothing. It’s a drawing.
Him: I was drawing. I haven’t drawn anything for a while.
Me: It’s a drawing of that girl, Meryl. Your poetry student.
Him: No it’s not.
Me: Yes. Yes it is. I’ve seen the photo on her Facebook page. This is a drawing of that photo.
Him: IT’S HER FUCKING BIRTHDAY, OK?! I didn’t get her anything last year and this year I want to get her something special!
[later. Looking at Meryl’s F-Book page I note her birth date: it is five months in the future.]

Me: Did you get my friend’s email about the wedding?
Him: I thought it was a Nigerian E-Mail Scam.
Me: They want everyone to make a toast.
Him: I'm certain that wit and intellect will flow from each unpracticed mouth, followed by wailing, later, silence. They want these people to give them a toast??? Asking these people to toast is like asking a hooker to deliver convocation at Radcliffe.

Me: Can you just tell me the truth? Have you slept with anyone?
Him: I haven’t slept with anyone.
Me: Well it just seems like maybe you have. I mean, our sex life sucks.
Him: Well that’s because you are so judgmental of me.
Me: That’s because you come home at two in the morning.
Me: One that involves other women. Girls, actually.
Him: I can’t take it! You won’t be happy until I’m living in a cage!
Me: Why is being honorable tantamount to living in a cage?

Me: I said I thought she was a good match for him.
Him: I can only imagine that when you said she was good for him you meant there was no way of accounting for her being with him and so let optimism prevail.

Me: Are you in your office?
Him: I'm at the Anderson lab and am leaving to go over to the usual waiting spot. Meet me there when you get done (no rush of course, I have books to read.)
Me: OK. How was your afternoon?
Him: A large section of bushes burned across the street from the Tech center, uncontrolled, while a bunch of Temple police men stared at it. Eventually it spread to a car parked in the lot there. Then someone showed up with a fire extinguisher. Then much too late the firemen showed up. I was rooting for the fire.
Me: So will you be ready to go by 5 o’clock or not?

Me: [answer phone] Hello?
Me: [walking out of the PA Museum of Art hallway and into a stairwell] Can you be more specific?
Him: The engine light is on and it’s just FUCKED, OK? It’s DONE.
Me: I think you should pull off and go to a garage.
Him: Thanks for the brilliant idea! I already thought of that!
Me: OK, well, I don’t know what I can do. I can’t help you from here.
Him: What the fuck? This isn’t my problem. This is YOUR CAR!
Me: But you borrowed MY CAR so you could go to Jersey City and watch “the fight”; hence, the car is in your care. Can you at least get it somewhere and have it looked at?
Him: It’s not my car! I have to go! I’m in a total SHIT STORM HERE! [hangs up]

Him: What did you do today?
Me: I took the train to Elizabeth, NJ, where you left the car. I took it to a Shell station and got it serviced and then drove it home. How about you?

Me: Just tell me. Please. Did you cheat on me?
Him: Come on.
Me: Please. Just tell me. I can’t handle you lying to me. I can handle fucking up.
Him: No.
Me: Are you sure?
Him: Yes. You’re going to make yourself crazy.

Me: It’s such a beautiful night. I love the smell of Eucalyptus.
Him: I slept with Anastasia the night you went to New York for Brandl’s party.
Me: Oh.
Him: But it was awful. I felt like I wanted to fucking die.
Me: Mmm… was that the only time?
Him: Yes.

Him: Are you saying you’re never going to talk to me again?
Me: That’s right.
Him: WELL FINE! I put up these bookcases and now they’re coming down! [begins dismantling my cheap as shit IKEA metal bookcases].
Me: I’ll be in the stairwell.
Him: You are the most cruel and heartless person I’ve ever met!

Him: I went to a therapist.
Me: Good for you.
Him: I thought you’d be proud.
Me: I am.
Him: She said you were emotionally abusive.
Me: Ah-ha. Well, sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth.

Him: [sends email with subject: “Federal Aviation Releases Crash Transcript Ha Ha”]
Me: I don’t know why you would send this. I don’t think this is funny.
Him: I thought you’d appreciate it. I guess this pile of crap between us won’t allow anything through.

Him: I found this in the classifieds of the City Paper, and seeing how it pretty much speaks for like everything, I wanted to give it to you: YOU, who have become the VOICE of, the woman of letters for this kind of writing. I think it would make an appropriate epigraph for your collection of stories. Here it is:
"Thanks for ruining MY special night
out, ignoring me and making out
right in front of ME! What the fuck?
I deleted both you fuckers off
MySpace. I hope you both get
Me: Thanks.
Him: How’s the dog?
Me: Bobo’s fine.
Him: I have often thought of Bobo as 'the young phenomenon' and of you as Gustave Flaubert. I suppose that places me as Maxime Du Camp, whom I believe was the first to photograph the Sphinx. I love you of course of course.
Me: I cannot get over what’s happened between us and I won’t pretend to do so. I’d like to come get the rest of my stuff.
Him: Why not wait until the storm intensifies to move your stuff. Why not wait for hurricane.
Me: What does this mean? Why so melodramatic? I’d like to get my TV and books. I left you with $200 worth of groceries. And I paid your rent this month. What else do you want from me?
Him: The groceries rotted. I didn't eat them. I don't watch the TV. It makes me feel sick. You said the suddenness of your move meant you would offer half-rent for May. I don't want your money. I meant hurricane to indicate the volume of water falling from the skies.

Me: How many times did you cheat on me.
Him: A lot.

I used to have a social networking profile. It was during the time when everyone was “setting” their profiles to: “private”. I changed my profile name to “This profile is set to: who gives a shit”.
Me: Check again. It appears, indeed, you dropped me.
Him: Well I see that now. But I did not drop you. In fact I was looking at your profile the other day, from my friends list. Maybe you dropped me by accident? I swear that you were on there just last week (obviously I have not been on- line on weekends (on welfare!! ha!)). But here is a prose poem for you:
“You must be this profile is set to who gives a shit's friend to send this profile is set to who gives a shit a message.” I hope you have enjoyed it.
Me: Thank you for that. If I don’t talk to you again before I leave for Minnesota, I wish you luck with everything.

my own place, circa 2008


Anonymous said...

You're awesome, you know that, friend? That first piece that you posted as rejected by McSweeney's, especially, was honestly some kick ass writing. As in, it made me a tad bit jealous. McSweeney's is a fussy one. Here's my first love letter from Timothy:

Hi, MQT (name changed in order to maintain my mystique) -

Appreciate your giving us a shot with this one, but I'm afraid we're not going to use it. Sparks more smiles than laughs.



Christopher Monks
Website Editor

I made him smile. 0/1. The quest continues.

(P.S. The piece they have up today is...let's just say you should be published there, not whatever her name is, Ms. Pregnant at 30).

abbimireilledion said...

MQT, you rock. I read the preggers at 30 thing. Well, no, that's a lie. I read the first two "paragraphs" and the last couple of lines. It prodded me towards the realization that my shit may never see the light of day with their imprint. And after the recent submission of this piece, I'm pretty sure they'll add me to their DO NOT CALL list. I feel like they frown on the use of words like "abortion". When they do reject it, I'm going to start a new blog called "McSweeney's is ANTI-ABORTION" (no I won't). Cheers! And keep me updated on your quest!

Anonymous said...

Don't necessarily give up on them, though. This guy's blog is another fine chronicle of literary rejection.

His doggedness is really quite admirable, if you read back through all the months of rejections. It's like, "Hey guys, update. Got rejected by McSweeney's, Tin House, Pank, Missouri Review, Word Riot (seriously, I'm done with Word Riot), The Morning News, Colorado Review, and Shit Hole Magazine this month. No biggie, though, I'll wear 'em down soon." Eventually he seems to do just that. An inspirational fellow, whose grace under rejection I would rank just below yours in terms of beauty.

I'll let you know if I ever pull it off with Timmy. Love,


J.E.H. said...

Hey Abbi,"MQT" here. Finally succeeded on the McSweeney's quest this morning with the good news email. Had to eat 5 rejections, 6th submission finally made it in (after a revision request). It required the usual compromise of writerly sensibilities to commercial pressures that to me seems unavoidable in all writing endeavors, in one way or another.

An entire summer's worth of weekends just to get the rights to that "-'s work has appeared in McSweeney's" blurb. Jesus Christ.

abbimireilledion said...

Oh my GOD. I'm jealous. I know that's an unfair response. Especially as you're so sporting and encouraging. But I'm SUPER jealous. I'm also psyched for you. When I see the piece, will I know it's yours? I hate/love not knowing.

But seriously EPIC CONGRATS!!


Anonymous said...

Well...maybe it's better that you never know. You'll check in on McSweeney's occasionally, and in your mind the visits will be a condensed into a parade of masked, mostly dry, tragically "ironic" (so ironic that the word itself will become a mustache, sprouting whiskers)800 word pieces...

I'll email you the title. You'll feel better when you read it, like, "eh". I just came to a point where I had to submit something that I knew would precisely fit the criteria of what hits there, seeing as how I'd been watching the site so carefully for months. I swear it's like stalking prey, with these publications, in the little experience I've had, thus far.