Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Today: Myself and the other interns were riffling through some old mail when we discovered an envelope with a return address at the Oregon State Penitentiary. An incarcerated man had written to Soft Skull, enclosing with his letter his 265 page manuscript of his first novel. The entire thing was handwritten because, as the man explained, he didn't have a computer. I wanted this to be good with my whole body. It wasn't. In the letter, the man summarized his book as the story of a man recently released from jail after many years, struggling with mental health issues. It became very clear that these pages were essentially his journal in the third person. 

My question is, if he didn't have a computer, how did he hear about Soft Skull? How did he get our address? Did he have somebody on the outside who listened to his idea, did the man ask this friend a favor - will you get the address of some publishers for me? 

The envelope had apparently been sitting around on a shelf for months, already opened. So, some intern had opened it, read it and forgotten about it? This man was sitting in a box somewhere, his journal sent off to strangers. Was he waiting for a response? What did he actually expect? 

Then I got distracted, too, by a manuscript sent to us with a return address for a man called Commander Pants. He wasn't funny. 

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