November 6, 2003

From Charles Bukowski's Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip:

"Dear Mr. Bukowski:
Again, this is a conglomeration of extremely good stuff and other stuff so full of idolized prostitutes, morning-after vomiting scenes, misanthropy, praise for suicide etc. that it is not quite for a magazine of any circulation at all. This is, however, pretty much a saga of a certain type of person and in it I think you've done an honest job. Possibly we will print you sometime, but I don't know exactly when. That depends on you.
Sincerely yours,
Whit Burnett

"Oh, I knew the signature: the long "h" that twisted into the end of the "W," and the beginning of the "B" which dropped halfway down the page.

"I put the slip back in my pocket and walked on down the street. I felt pretty good.

"Here I had only been writing two years. Two short years. It took Hemingway ten years. And Sherwood Anderson, he was forty before he was published.

"I guess I would have to give up drinking and women of ill-fame, though. Whiskey was hard to get anyhow and wine was ruining my stomach. Millie though - Millie, that would be harder, much harder.

"But Millie, Millie, we must remember art. Dostoievsky, Gorki, for Russia, and now America wants an Eastern-European. America is tired of Browns and Smiths. The Browns and the Smiths are good writers but there are too many of them and they all write alike. America wants the fuzzy blackness, impractical meditations and repressed desires of an Eastern-European.

"Millie, Millie, your figure is just right: it all pours down tight to the hips and loving you is as easy as putting on a pair of gloves in zero weather. Your room is always warm and cheerful and you have record albums and cheese sandwiches that I like. And Millie, your cat, remember? Remember when he was a kitten? I tried to teach him to shake hands and to roll over, and you said a cat wasn't a dog and it couldn't be done, Well, I did it, didn't I, Millie? The cat's big now and he's been a mother and had kittens. We've been friends a long time. But it's going to have to go now, Millie: cats and figures and Tschaikowsky's 6th Symphony. America needs an Eastern-European....


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