Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Modest Proposal

For Preventing Unemployed Novel Writers From Being A Burden, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Publishing

By Jon Athan-Swift

It is beyond melancholy for those of us who conduct publishing business on the internet to be bombarded with web sites, blogs, and pages written by beggars of the unpublished or unemployed novel-writer persuasion. Having written three, four, or six book proposals, all soundly rejected, they still importune every editor, agent or critic with queries. These failures, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time begging consideration for their unpublishable manuscripts, until they are reduced to soliciting PayPal donations or are forced to sell them for a buck advance to PublishAmerica.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of unwanted manuscripts and utterly worthless writers is in the present deplorable state of Publishing a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these writers better serve our society, would deserve so well of those of us who actually should be in print as to have his statue set up for a preserver of Publishing (and after reading this should you deem that to be me, you may contact my personal assistant for an appointment with a suitable sculptor.)

The number of souls in these dire straits being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand who have lucrative daily employment or reluctant but ample support of a long-suffering spouse. I again subtract fifty thousand for those who will give up on their own or do away with themselves in suitably tragic fashion within the year. There only remains one million, two hundred fifty thousand to be rid of. We can neither employ them nor do they wish to earn an honest living, so I consulted with my friends as to what should be done with them.

I have been assured by a very knowing American reviewer of my acquaintance in New York that an unemployed writer is a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout. Then, too, the unemployed writer's diet allows for the accumulation of very little body fat, which will require some caution with preparation and basting but should result in minimal cholesterol content. A fully dressed writer will make two dozen dishes worthy as an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

Editors who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the writer carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed and cured will make admirable substitutes for traditional hardcover bindings (with the added bonus of getting the PETA people off our backs about using leather), and cut into strips splendid bookmarks ready for embossing. Several editors of my acquaintance are in need of new upholstery for their office furnishings and would be delighted to have the buttery-soft hide of a writer cushioning their nether regions. As you know writer blood, properly reduced and thickened, will readily serve as ink for the red or maroon parts of illustrations or those passages in Bibles when Our Savior actually speaks. I do recommend buying the writers alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.

Finally, after the flesh and skin has been stripped and used, the very bones of the unemployed writer (thin and pitted by starvation as they may be) at very little cost may be transported to the nearest Top-Flite plant, where they will be bleached, ground up and added to the polymers used to make golf balls. Certainly attached to this will be the pleasure and satisfaction we can expect to feel each time we tee off and drive the last bit of a wannabe down the fairway.

Some persons of a desponding spirit would wish to be more charitable to the vast number of unemployed writers, and will take offense at my suggestions. But I am not the least concerned about their ire, because it is very well known that these wretches are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. Those we can help along more quickly to the inevitable end will only bless us for relieving their misery. We should also nip in the bud any hopes of public school children before they become literate enough to be a nuisance; thus the industry and ourselves are happily delivered from the evils to come, and our beloved sons and daughters will never again have to change their names to avoid claims by these scum of unfair favoritism, or rub elbows with them at industry conferences.

As to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble to us. Indeed, I expect the golf ball aspect to greatly improve my own game.


  1. I was of the impression that this excellent and virtuous proposal had been implemented, in part and in secret, some time ago.

  2. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Unemployed writers arise. We must save the unemployed of the world from this proposal from spreading to all other industries. Too late? Oh Well.

  3. Having read the original, I knew what I was in for from the title! You are as brilliant as you are evil, PBW.

  4. I will never look at golf balls the same way again. ^_^

  5. Anonymous1:02 AM

    Once I remembered who Johnathon Swift was I knew what to expect. Great, and funny, Lynn.

  6. It's a funny piece. To begin with.
    It is also cynical, pompous rats like this who spread the plague of ignorance and social alienation we seem to bathe in, in the US. Honest criticism, I'm not jabbing at anyone.

    But it's always nice to read an original piece, no matter how self-ingratiating. Yep, at least I cultivate curiosity, not the contrary.

  7. Very amusing. It's been too long since I've read any Swift... I think I must look through my library and see what I can find.


  8. This reminds me why I have that altar set up for you.

  9. Sheer brilliance. I know many an aspiring writer who indeed feels that the publishing industry has them, as it were, by the (golf) balls.

  10. PBW, I'm doing my best, legally, to deal with this situation.

  11. Your parody brings up memories of the A I received in school for my paper on the original Swift essay.

    Kid gloves, anyone?

    At my current weight, my skin could bind the collected works of Shakespeare. *g*

    Entertaining start to my day, Lynn. Thanks.

  12. Terribly entertaining. But really, 1.5 million unpublished writers?

  13. Oh, silly me, that's from the original essay. I'm sure it's a much lower number, say, 975,000.

  14. Umm, oh my! And here I thought they'd been all successfully penned in garrots somewhere.

    /me backs away slowly seeing as I fall into the category where books are concerned at least ;).

    I especially like the part about preventative maintenance through the school system. That's already been implemented from what I'm seeing :p.



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