The Applicant by Amanda Davidson

Dear Applicant,

I’m just an intern here. I haven’t been dead for that long, which is why the powers that be—those esteemed/established members of the editorial board—have not (yet!) vested me with the authority to make final determinations on matters of either aesthetics or content, although since I was, in fact, charged with sifting through the sludge heap in which your particular application surfaced, I find myself provoked to respond to your query re: the rejection letter you recently received from our emerging Revelator in Residence Program.

The short answer to your (rather long) question is: no. The admissions committee (whose members semi-centennially rotate) don’t consider the writing sample alone, but instead take into account the “whole applicant” according to a scored set of critical indices. For example: have you made significant accomplishments in a field that would shed legitimacy on a subsequent mystical turn? By this we mean computer science or theoretical physics, with social media entrepreneurship emerging as a possibility. Another contributing factor is do you have a meaningful publishing record—and I’m not just talking about that stapled zine you put together annually with your best friend. While I congratulate you and Nathanial that your print runs of “Parted in the Middle” have recently jumped from “about twenty five” to “seventy-plus,” I will tell you right here that the committee’s minimal circulation criteria starts at ten thousand. And if you legitimize clicks, or hits, or whatever rubric one uses for measuring the internet—that number just keeps going up.

Which brings me to my next point. Although your intention is surely earnest when you point to “independent publishing and d-i-y culture” as “the twin masts upon which hang the sails into which blow the winds of hope that propel forward our shared literary values,” we think that you are more than just a little off the mark. Also: wordy.

In short, the committee selected a candidate whose online publishing record met if not exceeded her output of print collateral materials (formerly known as books). With a keen and mathematical rigor, this year’s emerging revelator can track the calculus of blog hits-to-book contracts meticulously heeded by the last teetering giants of the publishing industry. Her writing sample included not only a proto-revelatory text— typo-free, in a contemporary and understated sans serif font, and syntactically pitched at an eighth grade level for broad accessibility—she also included in her portfolio a plan for cross-platform outreach to our targeted consumer base (formerly known as readership/converts), particularly in the growth markets of tablets, readers, and smart phones.

Frankly—and I’m saying this as someone who is generally invested in the more ineffable vectors of individual well being—it would serve you well in today’s market to accept that the form of the book is changing, and, having accepted this inevitability (which is already upon us)—to allow your borderline irrational attachment to this particular form—which is, you have to admit, almost fetishistic at this point—to fall away from you in flaming sheaves.

Just drag all of that old haptic data to the trashcan icon on your mental screen. The way the cover creases. How pages pile up more heavily on one side as you read. The smell inside a paperback if you push your nose in deep. We admit readily, if not loudly, that it was not without a modicum of hesitation or discomfort that we uninstalled our preferences for the bound paper codex, but when we finally acquiesced to the procedure—what a relief. What a relief! To burn all of those almost-archaic impulses out of the senses in one terrific, blazing streak. Mourn, tear your hair, rip your clothing, pound the earth, as each nostalgic vestige of tactile memory whoosh rushes out of you, leaving—

What, exactly, I can’t describe. A space for reading that is at once very now and very ancient. A thrilling simultaneity.

Which is to say—and I can sense that you’re worried about this—that the new reading is exactly like the old reading, but with a friendlier user interface. More interactivity. Like if you’re reading, say, a novel, or a haiku, and part of the way through a chapter or a syllable, perhaps, you want to look up something about the author, or that Japanese restaurant down the street—voila! No more tedious reaching into your pocket for the phone, or leaning over to get the laptop from the duvet where it nestled after last night’s streaming video binge—just boom, tap the screen, and there you are, poking around in some previously unexplored corner of the world wide internet. The book no longer dominates the reading experience, but instead becomes, as you put it, “a degraded node in a horizontal field of meaning.” But why degraded and not democratized, decentralized, delirious, ecstatic, free? Isn’t this what the theorists anticipated when they hailed the death of the author? When the rallying cry went up for porous, reader-centric texts?

As for that which is revealed once you let go of the form—all I have to say is: alpha and omega, friend! The beginning and end. First and last. And so on. And on. And on. We’re talking about blasting away illusory endpoints to reveal—writing without end.

We take a firm stand against the book’s old architecture of containment, in which false promises of closure and resolution lurk. Front covers, back covers—mere flaps, trick doors, an illusionist’s set piece. The spine—a fallible, dilapidated hinge. Did you really think that spines or covers could enclose much less express vertical vectors of meaning? Did you believe in the form’s attendant lie of narrative, that inverted check-mark of rising action-climax-falling action favored by middle-grade novelists and creative writing instructors and also maybe like the ancient Greeks?

Ha, I say.

Ha, ha!

If you persist in clinging to this notion, we can only wish you the best of luck as a mouthpiece for some antiques clearing house, and suggest that you banish posthaste your aspirations for the Emerging Revelator Residency.

It’s one big flow, now. Writing. As we always suspected it might be. A surge. A rain. An influx. It’s infiltrated every surface; every surface wants to become a screen. Listen to the clicking of your fellow patrons at the public library as they scuttle about the internet looking for whatever, information, gossip, photographs, and sure—maybe in some cases—for “actual writing” per the narrow bandwidth of “remaining literary forms and venues” you identify in your letter of protest. Regard the long, crowded tables with good access to outlets. Now shift your gaze to the books. Where? Where? Ah, there they are—concealed behind the winding line for the quick-use computer station, dormant, unbrowsed, in the ever quainter-looking stacks.

Applicant. Reject. Reader. You. If you do consider applying again in the future, we ask that you remember one thing: Heaven has adopted a zero tolerance policy for the nostalgically inclined.

Very truly yours,

[email protected]

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Amanda Davidson presents When It Comes, a new play @ Dixon Place on 7/30. Find out more at partedinthemiddle.wordpress.com.

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