A Red-Letter Day: We’ve Got Mail!

As Dick Young used to say, the postman knocks and knocks:

Dear Wise Guys:

I am reading a novel set in the next century, and I am puzzled. Reviewers have said that it captures the way “we” speak, act, think and otherwise carry out our daily lives. But, Wise Guys, I don’t recognize a soul in the book. It is filled with high-achieving Information Age New Yorkers. I’m sure the author has accurately portrayed these types. But how does a reviewer conclude that “we” all speak, act and think like the people in this narrow, self-absorbed world?

–Left Out in Yonkers

Dear Left Out:

Most authors would tell you not to pay too much attention to book reviewers. Since you raise the issue, however, I believe it is my obligation to point out the obvious: You don’t count. You don’t matter. Where have you been for the last 15 years? Do you watch television? Do you see any shows about working stiffs? No! They’re about magazine editors and television news reporters and skinny lawyers and rich teenagers who will get around to being magazine editors and television news reporters and skinny lawyers after they stop having sex. Those are the people who count in this new Information Age world, my friend. So if you want to read about yucky, boring, outer-borough people, read some old novel by Pete Hamill or Jimmy Breslin. Loser!

Dear Wise Guys:

Like all right-thinking people, I listen to National Public Radio. The other day, while my life partner pro tem and I were rinsing our organic vegetables with water recycled from the kids’ bath, we heard a commentary by a man identified as a popular culture critic. He said that the American mass media were having a hard time with the Balkans conflict because there was no nasty Third World type to hate. He pointed out that because Yugoslavian strongman Slobodan Milosevic is, well, a white European male, we just can’t believe he’s really a bad man. My life partner pro tem and I found this to be wonderfully insightful. When are you people in the media going to realize that white European males can be international villains? Signed,

–A Pair of Lefties

Dear Lefties:

Most people will tell you not to pay much attention to commentators who identify themselves as popular culture critics. Such people generally are irony-addled baby boomers who have given up on taking anything serious seriously, and have created a nice niche requiring only that they watch a great deal of television. Since you raise the issue, however, I should note that among the serious issues that popular culture critics refuse to take seriously is history. Thus, to the popular culture critic, the two worst human beings of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, are not prime examples of white European male villainy, but in fact are so-called “pop culture icons,” sharing the accomplishment of great fame with other famous people, i.e., Elvis Presley. And so you occasionally will see their names printed in boldface in the value-neutral gossip columns of certain slick magazines. As for the NPR commentator’s assertion that Mr. Milosevic has not been properly demonized because of his white skin, let me suggest that he study the use of the world “Slobbo” in those brilliant New York Post headlines. It is not, you can be sure, a term of endearment.

Dear Mr. Guy:

Who, exactly, was this Dick Young person you mentioned at the top of your column? I was …

–Born Yesterday

Dear Mr./Ms. Yesterday:

Ah, laddie/lassie, there was a time when sportswriters considered it their responsibility to impart information about games and those who played them. Dick Young was New York’s premier tabloid sportswriter from the late 1940’s to the time of his death in 1987. And while he was the best in his business for 40 years, even he ran out of steam from time to time. And when he did, he printed letters allowing him to take shots at correspondents espousing a parody of actual opinions. You see, of course, the correlation.

Dear Readers:

For the next month, a succession of guests will appear in this space while your correspondent wrestles with an oversize, but not quite overdue, manuscript. Details available upon request.

Signed,

–Wise Guys

Dear Wise Guys:

Like anybody cares. Signed,

–Your editors