I Was An Asshole

And who needed such jerks? Their cozy universe was being upended by a new, disrupting technology: a powerful communication medium that allowed anyone to broadcast their ideas at incredible speeds over long distances for almost no cost. It went unnoticed at first, but the shock waves from this new invention would eventually rattle the foundations of the publishing world, as it empowered a brave new generation of awful poets to emote more effusively than ever before.

This invention, of course, was the photocopier. My coworkers and I used to molest the one at work by squeezing our genitals against the glass, or chasing the glowing scanner with our teeth to make hideous paper masks of ourselves. Sometimes we would even copy our poems on the poor thing, amplifying their awfulness with the “enlarge” button, and then paste these up on the walls of our offices, or on the doors of the toilet stalls, or on telephone poles around town. Apparently the business cost of telling the employees to quit fucking around with the photocopier was greater than the cost of the photocopies themselves. That was the nineties in a nutshell: insufficient supervision.

So in exchange for access to the unknowable but likely tiny audiences of the small presses, I was quite content, for a while, to circulate little photocopied pamphlets among my friends and through the mail, and in return I received and read fantastically endearing ’zines such as COMETBUS and COOL BEANS and DORIS and others — many, many others, I have a basement full of others, you should stop by someday with a shovel …

“Hello?” said Dave Eggers.

Sorry, right, here I am, yes. I told Dave I felt great (or awesome, or something like that) about that. It seemed like the correct answer. As for making fun of my name, I said Sure I Guess, although truly I was a bit offended; I actually consider that to be the very lowest form of humor. You will never be able to tell anybody a joke about their name that they haven’t heard a million times already — a truth I’d expect someone named Eggers to know from experience.

But still, this had to be good, right? My story was accepted — well, no, it was maybe’d — by this pretty interesting and nicely designed literary magazine that seemed to have a wide distribution. It was only the second story I’d sent out since I broke my vow — the first came back from The Baffler with an encouraging note along the lines of “send us non-fiction” — so maybe I wasn’t the only person who thought these stories of mine were any good. Perhaps my belief in myself was not wholly unfounded. And Dave Eggers — former editor of Might Magazine, though not yet the massive literary industry he was to become, but still a guy whose work I admired — had called me up to be weird and distant on the phone, and make fun of my name, and say maybe. I think I was supposed to be encouraged by that.

Instead it left me anxious, as did almost everything that spring and summer and fall, as my girlfriend and I bought that house, as we moved in and pulled up the carpet and painted the walls, as her belly ripened like an orange and we got married in front of a judge and signed our lives away to a bank. Everything was changing, everything was exciting and scary. Life was beginning, life was about to end. I hardly told anyone about the McSweeney’s thing because, after all, he only said maybe.

Maybe a month later, as I was packing my extensive collection of heavy useless objects into cardboard boxes so I could throw them away after we moved, Dave Eggers called again. And it was just as awkward: mumbling, long pauses, occasional deep sighs. But this time he was “pretty sure” that my story had been accepted, pending some edits. He was going to e-mail me his notes; he said I could “take it or leave it” regarding those, and then send a draft back. I said Sure, Great, Yes, Awesome, words to that effect. He sounded disappointed.

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  • statusandapager

    THIS IS AWESOME AND REALLY ENCOURAGING. I LIKED PAGE 2

  • Mychale

    Strike one.

  • # SisterWolf

    You can really write! That's the main thing.
    p.s. I would've argued with Dave Eggers too, and that's why I can't have nice things either.

  • sarahlb

    how long did you agonize over that final “sweet”? did you consider “nice” (too distant) and “cute” (too condescending)?

    we are writers too, we know.

    • Mykle

      In search of a sincere answer to your question, I just dug out an earlier draft where I instead used the word “awesome,” in that typical Californian sense of generic enthusiasm for stuff. But that would have been lame. And while I'm not above using “sweet” in the sense of “dude, ninjas are totally sweet,” I think in this sense I really meant it as, you know, adorable in retrospect.

  • http://nothingspaces.com Carina

    This was sweet. Thank you.

  • Wedge Faraway

    Thank you, Mr Hansen.
    There was a reason why we became facefriends.

  • YEP

    The last part was really awesome. I didn't know self-publishing was literally gluing the pages together. Or was that a metaphor? But whatever, it was a great article.

    • Mykle

      Thanks! Yes, actual glue from an actual hot-glue gun. That was the 1999 alternative to printing a thousand copies and then warehousing 950 of them in my garage. Also, hot glue guns are kind of sexy. These days, of course, there is Print On Demand for one-at-a-time trade paperbacks. But I do like working with my hands, and I might manufacture a small run of hardbacks someday.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    And seven hundred sales, over a ten year period, means about as much to a major publisher as seven hundred squirrels farting in outer space.

    It was sweet.

  • Tim

    i stopped reading when you started getting into a fight with Dave Eggers. You became repellant.

    • ANON

      Finish it! He's remorseful!

      • Mykle

        And then I turn into a unicorn!

  • Adamhump

    I liked this, nice work.

  • http://twitter.com/allirense Alli Rense

    This is why you are better than me. I would have done everything Dave Eggers said.

    • Mykle

      I dunno … the thing is, he was mostly right. I just can't be told what to do, for better or worse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Parker-Baldin/516709205 Parker Baldin

    i like when thought catalog has really well written pieces like this

  • Earl

    Was?

  • Faust

    Great article – there's hope for us yet. Maybe. I should probably write something … still, loved the article. Thanks for posting it.

  • http://twitter.com/nycGtrain G Train

    Dave Eggers is the guy who wrote “What is the What?” right? Fucking retarded title. Fuck him.

  • Casey

    Kicking myself for that time when I was stoned out and peeled the ISBN sticker right off! Like refinishing an antique, I have devalued my copy.

    • mykle

      No problem! Print these out on Avery sticker stock, and apply to every book you own.

      http://mykle.com/images/second

      Nobody will suspect you were high.

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