Jonathan Franzen, may there always be pebbles in your shoe. May you always have a cut on the roof of your mouth. May you hear your wife on the phone, speaking quietly and chuckling, and may she stop abruptly when you enter the room.
May you be locked outside a party and knocking on the glass, and people look at you, but no one lets you in.
May you get impossible sunburns in places you didn’t even think possible. May your favorite beverage suddenly turn your stomach for no reason. May you wake up one day and find yourself without the intestinal fortitude to digest your favorite meal.
Jonathan Franzen, may all dogs growl and all cats hiss when you pass. You begin to feel somehow outside the natural world. Even the squirrels and birds seem suspicious to you. Do the crows know that you find climate disaster too much of a bummer to contemplate? Have they told the whales?
In your dreams, every night, someone steals your glasses. You are ashamed to be so unnerved by it. You wish you could write about the incident, but writing about someone snatching your glasses off your face because you are just so Jonathan Franzen is some sort of meta-story like Being John Malkovich that you don’t think you can pull off. Yet. Yet.
May you suffer frequent toothaches.
You are at a party, Jonathan Franzen, and you are ready to share an Anecdote. This is usually a moment for you. You usually savor the silence after you tease a story—the anticipation—but tonight everyone looks bored. You try again, and this time, they don’t even stop talking. They talk over your silence. You look for the hors d’oeuvres, but the tray is empty. Just greasy stains on napkins.
May the inside of your car smell like dog shit, and you never know why.
May every microphone rebel, emitting feedback when you start to speak.
May you be edited, and feel it as a slight. May you stifle the urge to remind people that you won prizes. You turned down Oprah. You wrote a highly-acclaimed novel when your genius friend died. But you don’t say anything. Because even though the imaginary opponent in your mind won’t actually tell you that each of your novels has sold fewer than the last, you know it.
May you read this piece, and feel seen—and feel a little bit of shame at that, your need for recognition so great that you are happy even to be cursed—but then come to the end and realize: I didn’t bother to read your trash essay before coming here to curse you.
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