“The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after.... Publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.” —New York magazine, September 22, 2008
Dear Prospective Literary Agent,
Given the dismal state of the publishing business, the dramatic reduction in national attention spans and the heightened level of competition from other forms of entertainment that require far less actual reading than a stodgy old book, I have decided to halt my efforts to write the Great American Novel. Instead, I will direct my creative energies toward keying in the Gr8 American Txt Msg (TGATM). I'm certain you'll find this “novel” prospect as exciting as I do.
As you are likely aware, a similar effort was made in 1924, when an unknown author attempted to dictate the Great American Telegram. He met with heavy resistance from the legal department at Western Union and was forced to abandon his noble quest, under force of a gag order. Earlier attempts to create the Great American Smoke Signal and the Great American Morse Code Telegraph Transmission have been impossible to verify, given the ephemeral nature of both of these mediums. But these efforts all suffered from the same fatal flaw: they existed in the wrong “context” (LOL).
Fortunately, the time is now right for the Gr8 American Txt Msg to succeed where these other attempts have failed, particularly if we cut the major wireless carriers in on the action. I'll leave it to your numbers guy to work out the details, but I am certain there is an equitable split to be had.
Why now? Because unlike the Great American Novel, TGATM is free of meaningful contexts, broad cultural truths or well-defined characters, all of which seem troubling to today's readers. Gone as well are the endless pages of descriptive prose and complex internal monologues, replaced by simple acronyms, emoticons and abbreviations. As an added bonus, TGATM can be read to completion in a sitting (or two). No more caring deeply about how a story might end or losing oneself in an imaginary world for intensive reading weeks at a time. In fact, TGATM doesn't need to be read at all. All one need do is glance in its general direction while engaged in conversation with another person. Some looking down toward the palm is required, but this has become an accepted habit today.
I have taken the liberty of converting eight noted Great American Novels into GATMs as a proof of concept, for your review (I have hundreds of other Merely Ok American Txt Msgs as well, which we can revisit down the line; perhaps they will work as a collection if we can get a two-text deal).
Mo B Dik
Advtrs of HckFin
DQMONT but I thnk ant pol-e wnts 2 sivilize u.
Hd fer the Trtories. Tke the rft Jim dsnt wnt it 2day
Nick--Day-z n u shld stp by the prty 2 nite.
Lst manshn on the rgt. Lk fr a ylow atomble.
Ask fr “jimmy”
Grps of Rath
Pa n Ma say itz awfl dusty out on the rd.
Brng h2o plz. We wl b @ the Bowl
i feel lk yre Nvsble, man
U nvr hng out NEmore. Wtf?
A Seprt Pece
Finny I m so srry abt yr leg. I nvr mnt 2 hurt u.
Lng liv devon skool! C u nxt fall ;)
Stp the bmbng!
Ysarin says thr is a ctch of sme knd p.s. wher is my 2baco, Milo?
Dvl Wers Prda
F U Miranda!
Please note that I am, at present, without the use of cellphone, which makes it exceedingly difficult for me to produce my own original text messages, great American or otherwise. It is thus imperative that I secure a large advance ahead of actually creating what will no doubt become TGATM. Let's chat soon (use my land line, please!) so we can make some magic happen.
|Peter Hyman is the author of The Reluctant Metrosexual: Dispatches from an Almost Hip Life (Villard) and a contributor to various national magazines.|