Voyd of Course

"It's like the Onion, only skinnier!" --Milton Swift "Still worth the price of the paper it's not printed on." --Felicia DuBois "The unspeakable, spoken." --Malin Wuptke "More interesting than computer solitaire, though perhaps not so effective a distraction from the void." --Harlan J. Rippington "Satire today, history tomorrow." --Steven Wallace

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Location: Santa Fe, NM, United States

In 1966, I wrote a fake newspaper article under the headline "JACK CASS SETS WORLD SHOWERING RECORD." Mr. Yohans, my 9th grade English teacher, liked it so well that he read it aloud--to much not-quite-suppressed giggling, at the sound of which, Mr Yohans said, "What? What? Did I miss something here?" I spent the rest of the afternoon in Principal Leon Duff's outer office. When Mr. Duff, who was a busy man, decided he didn't have time to see me, his secretary sent me back to the classroom, where I was greeted like McMurphy returning from solitary. Emboldened by my de facto exoneration, my friends began work on their own fake news stories. I remember a spate of Russian names in the stories, including "Ivan Kutchikokoff" and "Ivan Jerkinov." Needless to say, our newly suspicious teacher sent both of my friends to Mr. Duff's office, where they were not as bureaucratically blessed as I had been. They sat detention for a week. This I took as a lesson in subtlety--and in how to start a commotion and slip from the room before the law comes down.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006



Santa Fe, New Mexico—Dave Jonas, Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Santa Fe College, sets aside his sushi, puts down his chopsticks, leans back in his office chair, and laughs his characteristic laugh, a chuckle that that often degenerates into a sound like a cat choking on a hairball. Today, he stops himself short to reflect on where he’s been and what brought him to this place and time.

“I’ve basically become what I have always detested,” he says in an almost inaudible voice, “one of those writers who had just enough early success to secure a comfortable position and then, for whatever reason, ceased to be productive.” Jonas’s vita is littered with early awards—“look closely,” he says, “they all say ‘younger’--‘younger writer,’ ‘younger poet’--then it all stops. The awards dry up, the publications slow down, the early fire turned to a pit of ashes.” Jonas’s judgment might seem harsh, but all the facts suggest that his is an honest assessment.

“If nothing else,” Jonas says, “I can serve as an example of what not to do.” He picks up his chopsticks and deftly plucks a spicy tuna roll from the platter. “But, in my defense, I should point out that 99% of all poets ultimately fail to write anything worthwhile. It’s just that most poets keep pretending that they’re important poets until they die.” For the first time, Jonas smiles. “I just pulled up a few years short.”

Stacked in a corner of the office is a pile of what look to be manuscripts. Asked about them, Jonas waves his hand in the air. “Sure, those are manuscripts—three collections of poetry, two novels, a play, miscellaneous essays. It’s all crap. Publishable crap. No worse than the rest of the crap that fills the literary magazines, but crap, nonetheless. To publish it would be an affront to humanity and to the trees that would have to give their lives to provide the paper.”

What does Jonas see in the future? “Oh, I’ll write a great heap of crap. I’ll fill boxes with the stuff. I can’t bring myself to throw it away. I feel a kind of affection for it, the way one might feel attached to a wart or a mole, an imperfection that reminds you of who you are. So I stack up the pages. And I’ll continue to do that. Writing has become a tic, an involuntary reflex.” He flashes another quick smile. “It kills the time, you know?”


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