NB: Paper Cut Flophouse was a group blog that ran in the late aughts. Most posts were written by two contributors: me, using the pseudonym Roman Briton, and my friend Pompeston, the mastermind of the endeavor. This is a cross-posting of a post I originally wrote for PCFH; here’s a link to the original.
Dear Professor (and Mrs.) Weitzman:
Thank you for your letter requesting a joint residency at the Cuckchafe Colony. We greatly appreciate your interest in Cuckchafe, and enclose, for your convenience, our actual, paper application for residency, which is required of all our applicants, even those who are, or may once have been, “a household name.” We also appreciate the enthusiasm for Cuckchafe implicit in both your demand for “the biggest and ritziest cabin [we’ve] got,” and your avowal regarding the haste with which you intend to drive up to our “Godforsaken backwater” corner of Vermont—hence our speedy reply; our apologies if we’ve sacrificed sense for promptness. However, we tend to believe that all Cuckchafe applicants often feel “too damn busy to bother with the rules.” Many are also, we imagine, equally “sick of the damn undergrads.” Thus, we regrettably must ask all our applicants to let us consider their requests for residencies at least a few months in advance, and certainly never as soon as “next week.” (I am hopeful, Professor, that you will receive this letter prior to your threatened departure date!) Please also note that in addition to the missing paper application, we also never received a writing sample; perhaps you sent it under separate cover—in which case, perhaps it went missing in the post?
Which reminds me of a further consideration: Professor Weitzman, your enthusiasm for your third wife’s “creative spirit” and “untapped potential” warmed all of our hearts. It even tempered some of the ill-will some of us on the committee have harbored for you since your second wife’s infamous suicide, not to mention your destruction of her last, unpublished manuscript—although I was somewhat surprised to discover that I was the only member of the committee who has always taken you at your word that the novel you burned was “the embarrassing effluvia of a crazy lady.” Nevertheless, we do insist that, however many “fantastic anecdotes” the present Mrs. Weitzman might harbor in her “adorable little noggin,” Cuckchafe Colony protocols, no matter how old-fashioned they might be, stubbornly require that such stories exist in material form—i.e., written down—and that the committee have the formal opportunity to consider between ten and fifteen pages’ worth of said writing (again, I refer you to the enclosed criteria).
When you do have an opportunity to peruse our application, you’ll also note that the Cuckchafe Colony, unfortunately, does not offer such a thing as a “joint residency.” We cannot, even when our applicants insist that they need their spouse around at all times, as you so charmingly put it, to “keep the bottle on its shelf and the snake in its pants.” Have you considered applying to, say, the Bodhidharma Center for Creative Expressiveness in upstate New York? Although some might balk at the compulsory meditation, as well as the steep residency fees, meal fees, etc., their application requirements are refreshingly unrestrictive. My fellow committee members also insisted that I protest your wife’s caricature of Cuckchafe as a “pussy farm;” the portrait drawn of our institution in Grover Jablonski’s 1972 play of that name was a gross exaggeration, and besides, the place has mellowed considerably since Dr. Lenox’s ouster not long after the play won the Pulitzer.
On a personal note, if I may, Professor Weitzman, all of us on the admissions committee privately agreed that your stunning first novel, The Petulant Seed, was one of the most important and influential books any of us read in our teenage years—who, at the time, did not identify with Harry Seed’s rage at a cold world, and an even colder mother? We all share a certain fondness for the book, if an understandably tainted one; without question, its portrait of the archetypal “angry young man” of the era may have been taken far too literally by some readers, but I personally have never blamed your writing for the assassination of Senator Berkholder, or the attempted assassinations of Senators-elect Hobbs and Comiskey. I still proudly, publicly profess my love of the novel, and at every opportunity I take issue with those who agree with The New Yorker‘s Janet Purser’s legendary slandering of the book—with the ease of 20/20 hindsight, I might add—as a so-called “irredeemable template of sociopathic behavior.”
I think none of us need convincing, Professor, that since then, your career has, as you mention on page five of your thoughtful note, “tanked.” Indeed, it probably was a stroke of luck that you got tenure before “that little Harry Seed-wannabe bastard picked up a gun,” although I confess that the extensiveness of the coffee stain on that particular page makes me uncertain that I’m quoting you accurately here. All of us on the committee share your hope that your best work is ahead of you, and your belief that Cuckchafe would probably be a great place for you to “bang out some classy stuff;” and although we sincerely hope we do not see you, your rental car, and your typewriter in our driveway later this week, we unreservedly look forward to you and your wife’s timely, correctly assembled, and completely separate applications in the future.
The Cuckchafe Colony Admissions Committee