Memoir of Jasper

An Odd Man is Convinced to Write a Book

The Jasper Chronicles Part One

To: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
From: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Subject: This is all I have so far. I suck.

James, I have no clue what I’m doing here. This is probably awful.

Prologue (might be the wrong name)

I had an auspicious start. My parents’ dog died the same day I was born. He wasn’t old, just neglected. There were 12 of them in “The Tribe” and according to my mother, everyone thought someone else was feeding Mr. Bonjangles. Florencio remembers the dog’s hunger barks getting weaker and weaker until they were finally drowned out by the laboring wails of my Mother. They used the canine carcass as my bed until it began to decompose. I’ve been snuggling with death from the very start.

My father pulled me out of my mother’s vagina with tongs, which only moments before had been used to flip a chicken that was roasting on the roof of their Van. The tribe didn’t believe in doctors; only in the themselves, Jack Kerouac, Jean-Paul Sartre and other pathetic posers. Think of them as a really lame cult, or a decent commune. Their philosophy was a transparent excuse to do as little as possible on as many mushrooms as possible. When I was jettisoned from my mother’s womb and into the prison of life, my father said he felt guilty. I think that was a valid emotion; life isn’t for everyone.

If you choose to continue, might I suggest that you adjust to this attitude, as it pervades the rest of the book. There’s nothing uplifting in the end and no lessons to be learned. I’m a 52 year-old unmarried childless asshole who rents a basement room in a studio that produces pornographic films. I fall asleep most nights to the sound of fake orgasms.

So there’s that, I suppose.

Introduction

I’m Jasper Foie-Gras. I have no clue what my real last name is, my parents forgot it a long time ago. So, for now I’m using the favorite food of the only hooker who ever loved me. Some other last names I’ve had in the past are Carnivore, Pulp, Metastasized, and French-Press. It’s hard when you can choose anything. Maybe I’ll go with something like Rogers next time. I’m getting bored of being so annoyingly creative.

My editor says: “Jasper, in the introduction to your manuscript, you should tell your readers why you feel uniquely qualified to write a memoir.” Every time he says manuscript, I make a loud barfing noise. So far he’s been undeterred. The Magna Carta is a manuscript, right? This is a fucking book, and it already sucks.

Why should I write a memoir? Well, if you’re an annoyingly energetic young person who wants to have a successful happy life, just do the opposite of everything you read here. That’s why the publisher is paying me to write this.  I told him, “It’s a How Not to Book for Life.” He thought it would be a hilarious work of satire. Joke’s on you Random House, I’m a terrible person. You would be too if you spent the first 2 weeks of your life sleeping on a dead dog while your parents drank mushroom tea and learned the sitar. I’m “uniquely qualified to write this memoir” because I’m the world’s best cautionary tale.

Fair warning: This introduction is over, and I’m seriously considering starting Chapter 1 with “It all started when …” So, if you can handle vomiting in your mouth a little bit, please read on.

*********************

So, should I keep writing this, or just give you your money back?

Jasper.

From: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
To: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Subject: Re: This is all I have so far. I suck.

Jasper,

Good start! Very meta! It’s like a satire of satire!.

I have a few small notes.

  1. Can you describe the dog more? I know you don’t remember, but you can fudge this a little. Was it a “mangey mutt?” that sort of thing. Also, I think 2 weeks of sleeping on it might be a little unrealistic, no?
  2. Don’t call yourself an asshole, the reader will glean that naturally through your stories.
  3. Love the part about manuscript… manuscript manuscript manuscript. HA!
  4. Other than that, I think you can just flesh everything out more…DRAW it out, give it more description and more life! You’re a fun guy Jasper Metasticized, let your readers see that if only a little here and there.

I’ll be on vacation for the next 3 weeks and unreachable. Have fun with the manuscript!

Warmest Regards,

James

The Jasper Chronicles Part Two

To: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
From: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Subject: Re: Re: This is all I have so far. I suck.

James,

I still believe in the subject of this email. Until I have more confidence, I’d appreciate if we agreed to leave it untouched. I’ve addressed your notes below, and I’ve included a start to chapter 1.

To your first note about describing the dog more. I don’t think anyone gives a shit what the dog looked like if it was dead. They can surmise that because the dog was used as my baby bed, it was of ample size to accomodate a baby. If you want me to say it was brown, I will, but I think it’s stupid.

Your second note said that I shouldn’t refer to myself as an asshole because it will come out naturally as I tell the stories of my life. That’s honestly one of the most awesome compliments I’ve ever received. Thank-you for making my day

Note number 3. I’m serious, James, please don’t use the term “manuscript.” It sounds pompous, and my creativity dries up when I think I’m doing something important.

As far as “drawing things out,” I get it, books are supposed to be long and boring.

Here’s the begining of chapter 1. As I warned you, it starts off pretty lame.

It all started when Florencio convinced everyone he could make booze from eggs. Florencio also believed creaking doors were ghost farts and volcanos were Jesus’ orgasms. He was like a really stupid sorcerer. The whole tribe drank the opaque white home brew and all got botulism. For the next 6 days they took to the healing tent. On day 3, I was conceived. My humanness was created inside an egg that was poisoned by an egg. Everything else you read should make perfect sense.

When I was born, all 6 of the women in the tribe started lactating (they were very close) and each took turns nursing me.  When they were done, they’d lie me back on the dog carcass. When I cried, a different woman would come feed me. Romulus and Remus were teet-fed by wolves, and they fuckin’ founded Rome. I had 6 moms, and at 52 years old, I’ve never owned a raincoat.

Given all that exposure to different breasts as a baby, it’s hilarious that I now live below a porno studio filled with fake tits. Maybe that’s irony, or justice, or poetic justice, or maybe just poetry. Whatever it is, it’s been the guiding force in my cautionary tale of a life.

I realize so far this memoir has been mostly about stuff that’s happened to me, but that’s what it’s like to be a baby and a kid; other people are in charge of making things miserable for you. I didn’t start making my own giant gaffes until I was 12. That’s when I escaped the tribe, stole a blue blazer from Jamesway, and tried to infiltrate Boy’s Town. I think I’ll write about that in chapter 5 or 6 depending on how long it takes me to regale you with pathetic tales of being home schooled by people who don’t believe in math. By the time I was 11 I was reading Being and Nothingness but had never seen money.

When I was 2, the tribe made me choose a mom. Some of the women campaigned for the job harder than others. The only one who didn’t try at all was my actual mom. The woman I chose was named Freda. I don’t know much about her because she died about 6 months later after eating Florencio’s homemade sausage. That’s when my real mom said “Fine, I’ll be his mom.”

Ok, James … I could write a lot more about the mom stuff. Let me know if I’m on the right track here. All that shit I just said is true.

Jasper

****************************

From: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
To: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Subject: Out of Office Reply

Hello!

I will be on vacation until December 17th and only checking email sporadically. If you have any urgent matters, please contact April Higgins at A_Higgens@randomhouse.com

****************************

From: Jasper@crosscountry.net
To: a_higgins@randomhouse.com
Subject: Fwd: Re: Re: Re: This is all I have so far. I suck.

April,

James said If I had anything urgent I should email you. Can you read this garbage I wrote and let me know if you think it’s a good start for a memoir. It’s attached as a word document.

Jasper Foie-Gras

The Jasper Chronicles Part Three

From: a-higgins@randomhouse.com
To: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Cc: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
Subject: Your Manuscript

Mr. Foie-Gras,

It’s a bit out of the ordinary for more than one editor to provide feedback on a manuscript, but since you feel it is an emergency situation and cannot continue without constructive criticism, I will oblige. I have CCed James, so he’s aware of our correspondence. I expect him to return to the office on Wednesday.

I’ve read the brief prologue, introduction and beginning of chapter one. Here are the things I like.

“I’m Jasper Foie-Gras. I have no clue what my real last name is, my parents forgot it a long time ago. So, for now I’m using the favorite food of the only hooker who ever loved me. “

That had me gasping for air at my desk, and I must say all the other editors found it to be extraordinary phrasing. Also of note is,

“It all started when Florencio convinced everyone he could make booze from eggs. “

All of us in the office found that to be an infinitely intriguing lead-in. I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of my favorite lines with my cohorts.

So, while I think the phrasing and imagery is stellar at times, I don’t believe you have a story to tell. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that you as a person probably have a story to tell, or else James wouldn’t have given you an advance to write this memoir. However, as a reader, it’s entirely unclear where anything is going.

From what I’ve read, I only know the following things about you.

  1. You were born into something called The Tribe.
  2. As a baby, you slept on a dead dog (btw, I would love to see more details about the dog: color, texture, etc).
  3. Your mother didn’t want you.
  4. You’re miserable and you hate yourself.

Those are not qualities in a personal story that would encourage a person to keep reading. Why would I want to read a book about someone who’s totally miserable and tainted by early brushes with death? I believe you must plant the seed in the reader’s head that you will overcome something and prevail in a heroic way.  I don’t believe anyone can follow, no matter how poetic at times, the story of a jaded man who hates life. I’m sure you did some wonderful things as a child and young man. Give us a hint, because as it stands now, you’re not likable and no one finishes a novel with an unlikable protagonist.

Here’s my suggestion, and take it with a grain of salt. I think you should start over. In the prologue, I would suggest providing a short history of The Tribe, so by the time we get to the introduction, the reader understands a little about your circumstances. Then in the introduction you can talk about how you you were born and how you later chose your name. I would leave out anything about your current living situation. This is a memoir, and memoirs deal only in the past.

About your past. I researched “The Tribe,” and can’t find any record of their existance at all. Also, I’m fairly certain groups of women don’t all lactate at the same time just because one of them gave birth. I think maybe someone was pulling your leg? Perhaps it’s worth doing a little soul searching and considering the possibility.

The most important thing to remember is that since James Frey’s debacle with A Million Little Pieces, everyone is very sensitive about accuracy in memoirs. I would like to just give you a gentle nudge and a wink when I say, “Remember to always tell the truth.”

Hope this helps, and I’d be more than happy to read the next draft if you and James find if helpful.

Warmest,
April

***********************

From: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
To: a-higgins@randomhouse.com
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript

HOLY SHIT APRIL, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

You may have just ruined my relationship with the author of what could very possibly be the next Confederacy of Dunces. Where on earth do you find the balls to critique my client’s work? You didn’t even understand what you were reading. This is a satire of satire. Do you have any idea how meta that is? Are you aware of how desperate the 25-35 year old demographic is for anything meta?

I don’t know what to do, April. I’m on vacation in Mexico with my family and I’m typing this to you at a goddam internet cafe. Do you think this is what I wanted to be doing? You have no idea how fragile Jasper is. Any negative feedback will likely send him back undergroud. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never hear from him again.

Nice work, you’ve ruined your first masterpiece. Jasper was on the verge of creating a new genre, and you’ve likely robbed literary society of the opportunity to experience it. Now if you’d stand out of my way, I’ll respond to Jasper. I’m sending it to you too, so he feels like I’m dealing with the situation you’ve created.

**************************

From: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
To: Jasper@crosscountry.net
Cc: a-higgins@randomhouse.com
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript

Jasper! My MAN!

Hola from Mexico. So great to hear from you. Forget what April said. She’s a moron. Women! Am I right? Also, I hope you’ve survived her multiple use of  the word manuscript. I assure you she was not aware of your brain’s allergy to that term! Let me tell you a little about April. She’s VERY young and just out of college and full of attitude and almost completely devoid of value.

Let me be perfectly clear about something here. I’m deeply sorry that you were exposed to the opinions of an undereducated, inexperienced editor who doesn’t think she’s being useful unless she’s being negative. I think what you’ve written so far is EXCEPTIONAL and I cannot wait to read more. Please don’t let Ms. Higgins’ misguided comments lead you astray from the ridiculously wonderful work you’re doing.

I believe in you, Jasper.
Warmest,
James

*********************

From: j_barnes@randomhouse.com
To: a-higgins@randomhouse.com
Subject: FWD: Re: Your Manuscript

April,

You better hope that worked. If not, you’re fired.

James

The Jasper Chronicles Part Four

From: Jasper@crosscountry.net
To: a_higgins@randomhouse.com; j_barnes@randomhouse.com
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript

Dear Mr. Barnes, and Ms. Higgins,

First, I would like to apologize for my thorough lack of communicae over the past month. As you feared, James, Ms. Higgins’ critique of my work, and doubts about the validity of my memories, fell upon me like a red hot metal blanket. James, in your email to me, you referred to Ms. Higgins as a “moron” who is “VERY young and just out of college and full of attitude and almost completely devoid of value.”

I was fascinated by this analysis, as, spare the part about college, it’s exactly how I feel about myself – “a moron, who’s full of attitude and completely devoid of meaning.” I honestly couldn’t have written it better myself. Ms. Higgins, I’m sure it comes as a surprise to you, or perhaps it doesn’t, that James thinks so poorly of you. From experience, I can tell you that living as a moron who’s full of attitude and devoid of meaning will ignite many a suicidal thought. Should you ever need to talk to a peer, my number is 1-800-EAT-SHIT.

Let’s put it all behind us. I’ve taken Ms. Higgins’ thoughtful, albeit unimaginatively communicated, criticisms and doubts under advisement as I drafted the beginning of Chapter 1. I hope you might enjoy it in ways of which I was incapable.

Chapter 1

The bus smelled like jarred flatulence and creamed corn. To this day, whenever I pass wind or visit a cafeteria, I think of my parents and the rest of The Tribe. I’m especially reminded of Florencio, as he was the most egregiously malodorous. I’m not sure if it was a disease in his genes, or simply a feature of his heritage, but Florencio’s armpit hair grew faster than even the most aggressive bacteria. After only a week of inattentiveness, it would tickle his rib cage and stretch his underarm skin until it looked like his shoulder was dangling a pony-tailed tortilla.

Yes, Florencio could have trimmed daily, but he was addicted to scratching the itch. After the hair reached a certain length, he would begin digging at his pits – his hand like a weivel scurrying to carve-out a home for its progeny. His alto speaking voice would transform into a guttural moan, as he raised his leg and shook it like a briefly satisfied tic-ridden hound. “Armgasm comin’!” everyone would yell. We loved to watch him lose himself in the itch. After coming to, he’d ask if we all enjoyed his special dance. Then he would laugh like a mad man.

I only tell you this grotesque detail because Florencio’s ample pit hair – which he later started growing even longer and braiding – saved my life on my eighth birthday.

The Tribe had decided to visit Tijuana, Mexico, and since none of us had any identification beyond fingerprints, my father thought it best to simply drive the bus across a particularly shallow stretch of the Rio Grande river. As the men sat silently dubious and the women screamed, “Dear God, please don’t do this,” the bus barreled into the river. It immediately began to float like it had eaten mushrooms 45 minutes earlier and was beginning to lose its grip on reality. “Look, guys, I’m totally a boat now,” it said playfully.

The river was nasty that day. I’m told it’s always nasty, but I can’t personally attest to its nastiness beyond the one day I experienced it. “EVERYONE JUMP!” my father screamed as he opened the bus doors. One by one, each member of The Tribe walked off like school children exiting to a certain death. Being the youngest member, I had yet to take Florencio’s swim class. From the bus, I watched my extended family swim to the shore while I floated away; the captain of a brand new vessel. Then I saw Florencio’s soggy braid slap onto the steps of the boat like a stallion’s tail. Though I had no view of his body, I grabbed on with both hands. Before I knew it, I was under water, but moving very quickly toward shore. Twice I saw what I believed to be Florencio’s foot up ahead, but I knew I needed to keep my head down and arms wrapped firmly around his thick brunette rope. When I finally caught my breath, I realized we’d all made it to Mexico. Well, except for the bus.

****************************

OK, James, and Ms. Higgins, that’s the beginning of Chapter 1. I hope there’s enough of a story for you.

Best,

Jasper

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