Baby steps in the journey

from terrible interviewee to Harper's cover, from Jeremy Miller:

For the next two months and 29 days, I shuttled between a 6x8 windowless room in Sunset Park and a cubicle at 666 Broadway brimming with hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts. The “slush pile,” as it was often pejoratively referred to, was sacred to me – an ever-growing pile of ideas and inspiration. Though we were told to be efficient with our time, I read carefully and passed along what I thought were the best manuscripts to the editors. In a fit of Karma, when forced to reject authors far more talented than I, I wrote apologetic, compassionate letters. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the opening line of my favorite bit of “slush,” a short story about stuffed animals at war:


         "Death comes swiftly on the teddy bear range where the night devils’ silhouettes mar the purpling sky."


         I wrote a glowing rejection and thought I might find myself party to a spectral correspondence with the ghost of Frank Zappa.

         The little money I earned that summer came from selling piles of review copies back to the Strand Bookstore.  Nearly all of it went toward Mamoun's falafel sandwiches and lentil soup ($4), the occasional ruminative pint at Swift's on 4th Street ($6), and bus fare between Boston and the Big Apple ($10). I learned a lot. I worked hard. I think I did a good job there. Aside from long walks in Prospect Park and the raiding of fridges of friends around the city, I had nothing better to do than annoy editors with Index stats and story pitches.

         Needless to say, none of these stories was picked up. But several of my Index stats made it to print - as did a few hard to find Readings items that I managed to hunt down. I also assisted the editors and writers with occasional research. I'll even take a crumb of credit here for the title of a Harper's Forum. The article was about "academic freedom" and the outcry among conservative professors of liberal bias in the hiring of professors at U.S. universities. I was helping out with research and interviewing background sources. One afternoon, I listened to a staffer at the think-tank of conservative activist David Horowitz complain about the unfairness of these practices. He said that measures should be put in place to ensure a "balance" of liberal and conservative profs. "You mean, like, affirmative action?" I asked. The guy hated it. But Bill Wasik, the editor I was working with at the time, liked it. The article ran as "Affirmative Reaction: When campus Republicans play the diversity card."

Up next: All sorts of stuff is born -- babies, careers, things like that...

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