Most Famous Stories in the Portland Review

What is this? Helen. They want me to tell them more stories about famous foist stories in The Portland Review? Christ. I got a stomach problems. God. These kids don’t care. Fine. Fine!

Back in 1853 I was a clerk for a law firm on wall street, and since I’m a rather elderly guy today it might be hard for me to remember, but I did meet Herman Melville.

Herman!

Mell, as his friend’s preferred not to call him, was a janitor sweeping all up over my firm. He kept coming by and asking me questions.

“Hello good sir.”

“What can I do ya for?” I said, doing some very important paperwork.

“Were you asleep?”

“Just restin’ my eyes, kiddo. What’s up?”

I was up shitcrick. This no nothing party member janitor found me napping at work. Now I made a handsome salary in those days, which was about seventeen cents a month. God, could you live like a king on that. I used to eat nothing but ham, which is odd because I’m a chosen person, if you know what I mean. What? Oh come on Helen. I’m just kidding. My uncle was in the vaudeville. Zeppo Marx. You know. The Marx Brother that the Marx Brother’s all hated. Zeppo. Yeah yeah.

“Good sir, can you do me a favor,” this Herman kid asked. “Could you read this story of mine, and start a literary magazine and publish it?”

“Kid, I don’t know the foist thing about publishing. I’m not even sure I know how to read.”

And then he pulled a gun on me and the Lone Ranger came out with Hemingway riding him instead of a horse and I took a nosh from the onion on my belt, which was not the style at the time because onions had just gone out of style, and well. Blackmail is such an ugly word. That’s what Hermy said. Uh.

Helen. I need a Fresca. What? Sanka? Well, that’s not the same. Sigh. Whatever.

And that’s how Tin House got started. Now stop calling me.

 

 

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Most Famous Stories in the Portland Review

Morty (Last name unknown) was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Portland Review from 1921-2010. He is currently retired, living a life of modest luxury in Florida. “Helen!” he screams, “I need more cream. It’s hot out.” These are his stories.

The Killers (1926, Ernest Hemingway). Oh Christ. I remember sending that acceptance letter out in the mail. Great story. A little weird that there was little to no dialogue in it, but god, the writing was great. I think Ernie narrated it from a mouse’s point of view, originally. I can’t remember. You’d have to ask the currentReview editor to dig that one up. But man. He (Hemingway) hadn’t published very much at that point, I think just this book about cats, and was living in some European country eating biscuits or something). So my gut reaction to this story was that it was great and that we had to publish it. I mailed out the acceptance letter and the very next day I got a call.

“Yeah,” I said, answering the phone.

“Thank you.” God that voice. Sounded like. Well. It just sounded like some guy. Nothing special. It was like he wasn’t real. Some ghost was calling it. Or a computer, if they had those at the time. Maybe a calling machine. But the voice was just there, like a lump of crap. Flat. Affectationless. Dead to the world. For a second there I thought someone was about to off himself and called me, wrong number of course, as the his suicide call. Also, I hadn’t had a change to drink my morning Joe.

“Lissen kid. Don’t kill yerself until you get the person you wanna talk to. Like a lady. Ladies are good to talk to. They listen.”

“This is Ernie.”

“Yeah, great. And my friend Bongo Bob has a bridge he can sell ya.”

“No. I wrote The Killers. The story you accepted.”

“Jumping Jesus on a pogostick,” I said. “Don’t you live in Canasia or something? How’d the mail get there so fast.”

“I just want to thank you for publishing my story.”

“Oh yeah, it was pretty good. Had some suggestions.”

Ernie gulped. Young writers needed to be wrangled, you know? And it’s my job to do the wrangling. We, editors, see something that can be developed and we do that. No writer is born fully-formed. You see these chuckleheads being published in the Nude Yorker. You think that comes that easily? No. Editors mold the prose. The unsung heroes of the writing world, us. Editors. Someday someone’ll write something about whatever it is we do titled Whatever It Is We Do Is A Secret. But I digress.

“Kiddo, put a few lines of dialogue in there. Some breathing room. No one wants to read a list of cheese.”

“Kinds of cheese.”

“Whatever.”

“There are a lot of kinds of cheese. Brie. Monster. Charlie Cheese. Uh. Wednesdaydale. Yellow. Orange….”

And then the goober was getting ready to list things, so I cut the joker off.

“Dialogue. Scene. Stop with these long paragraphs and flowery sentences. You’re nuts are purple but your prose shouldn’t be.”

“My nuts are pink.”

“Well, what do you have that’s purple?”

“My guts.”

“You need to go out there and live for a year son. Go hunt a lion. That’s how I got my job.”

And then I hung it and drank my coffee.

That, my friends, is how literature is born. And a legend. Helen. My cream! I need my cream!

If I still had a prostate. Uh. Well. Nevermind.

Most Famous Stories in the Portland Review

Hiya folks, this is Morty here again. I’m here to tell yas about the most famousest stories ever poiblished in The Portland Review. You can read part unos of this exciting new venture here: Not there! Here!

Now, before we go onta today’s story, let’s see if we can’t find us a bedder pitture of me. Morty. The second editor-in-chef for the rag. Now, back in those days the positions was called editor-in-chef and not capitalized because you worked for the cafeteria at the university and were considered worse than dogshit. Goddamned privileged students. But I diegress.

Oh jumping Jesus on a pogo stick. Helen! Ya been futzing with my computer box again! I don’t want to… oh…

uh.

Yeah. Anywhom. It’s unfortunabadly that we can’t find use a pitture of me this week, but next!

Today I’ll be talking about publishing Richard Yates’s Jody Rolled Some Bones.

Now, dis was the story that made all Dick famous. Foist published in The Portland Review in the late 50’s (1950’s or 1850’s, I can’t really remember) and then later picked up by some rag by the name o Harper’s Atlantic. 


It’s a classic story about sodgers in World War deuce and how their lives are decided by luck, no control over nothing. What? Sodger? You know, Helen. Like those guys who go to the wars. S-O-L-D-I-E-R-S. Sodgers. Christ. Ya got too much cream in yer ears. Gotta get rid o that infection.

So, originally Yates included this description of his ex-wife in the middle of the story:

goddamned cunt motherfucker cigarette need must kill all mother fucker mother fucker mother fucker.

And I cleaned that up for public consumption. Now this really disrupted the narrative, so I called Yates up.

“Hello Richard,” I said.

“You cockshit,” he said, “what do you want?”

“I’ve got a question about this story of yours that we agreed to publish.”

“You can’t not publish it. No backsies.”

Now, at that point I realized that that was true. No backsies. So I resolved to READ every submission sent to us, and not just pick a few at random. Had that written in the charter. So that’s why The Portland Review reads every submission now, unlike some rags out there today.

“Right,” I said. “I know, but you’ve got this paragraph of profanities in the middle of the story. You got them goys at the base being drilled by the sarge or whatever. And then you stop the story to go on this five-page-one-paragraph rant about your ex-wife.”

“Did you know that my daughter is dating some fruitcake with a candy-striped coat? Bald Jew.”

“Well, Richard. This might soiproise ya, but I’m a bald Jew.”

“What do you want?”

“Could you edit some o that profanities out? Not all of it, mind you, I think it’s good. But just some of it. Also, all of your stories seem to be about either sodgers. TB patients. Failed sculptoring ladies. Failed marriages. And guys who write ad copy and want to be real writers.”

“Fuck you.”

Needless to say I wanted to pull the story, but published it with that five-page-one-paragraph rant o cuss words. Then the Atlantic Herper’s took  it and then cut that pagraph out. Pussies.

 

What? Helen? Whaddya mean this story was had been low-hanging fruit? It was true. And that’s all that matters. Years later Richard came up to me and said, “Thank you for being the foist to publisher me. I wouldn’t be the sexcessful alcoholic I am today if it weren’t for you.”

Eh. I should get an assistant to type tings out for me.

Until next of the time!

Most Famous Stories in the Portland Review

Hiya folks, this is Morty here. No last name. Just Morty. I work for the Portland Review. Hey. Should that “The” be capitalized? Hah. I guess so. I was never able to quite figure that one out. So. Hiya folks. Morty here. And I made a mistake. I used to work for The Portland Review. You see, I’m eighty-nine years old. What? Oh. Sorry. My wife is telling me that I’m fifty-six. Either way, I used to work for the, I mean, The Portland Review back in the day. Here’s a picture of me:

Hey. I thought I had more hair. And more face.

So, one of the young punks who works for the, cripes, The Portland Review asked me to comment on some of the more famous works that have graced our fine feathered pages. Michael Magnes was his name. Managing Editing was his game. I can only assume that he’s dead now, since most Managing Editors only last a few days. It’s a vicious position, why I myself moidered seventeen of my Managing Editors back in my day. Course, it was legal to do so. What? Honey? Moidered? You know. Moidered. When you kill some goy. What? Not a Gentile. A Goy. G-U-Y. Christ. Ya got whitefish in yer ears Helen? Moidered? M-U-R-D-E-R-E-D-E-D, uh. Anywhom.

Magnes asked me to comment on some of the most famous stories in The Portland Review. Here’s the first installment. The foist of many I hope. What? What do you mean my accent isn’t consistent?

A Small Good Thing by Raymond Carver.

Ah. The famous Ray Carve. Everyone knows this story. It’s about a breadmaker or a goat or something. Foist published in 1983, I believe. No. 1982. See, most people thing that it was published in Ploughsares in 1983, but those creeps just copied our pages. And they actually paid Ray. You know, I agreed to publish it over a cup o Sanka, Sanka being the only beverage available in Portland at the time. God it was awful. That first line: Saturday afternoon she drove to the bakery in the shopping center.

Originally read: Saturday evening she drove to the bakery in the shopping center.

“Jesus,” I said to Ray. “Why would anyone go to a bakery in the evening?”

“Because,” he said, as he lighted a cigarette, “baked goods.”

“That ain’t an answer.”

“What’s in an answer,” he said, sipping his Sanka.

“You creep,” I said. “Lissen. Change that line to afternoon. Also, instead of a bakery how about a shampoo store? Everyone needs shampoo.”

“Sure.”

And then he sent me the story with that one line-change, evening to afternoon, so I figured that he changed everything I asked him to. So I lighted a cigarette and published it. Three years later I read it and realized that creep didn’t do a goddamned thing.

So I called Ray up and said, “Jesus Christ, you crumb bum. How dare you not lissen to my changes. I’m the goddamned editor.”

“Morty,” he said, “calm down.”

“Sure.”

“You know how the story ends?”

“What, with the people eating the bread after their dog or something has died?”

“Yeah,” he said, “dog.”

“And you wrote, smell this it’s heavy and rich and they smell it and they taste it and it taste coarse and sweet and it’s a small good thing after all of the tragedy that has befallen them?”

“Yep,” he said, “after their dog was eaten by a Leopard.”

“Hmm. Maybe you should change that to their kid?”

“I lighted a cigarette.”

“I’m just saying. Also, Shampoo is home-ier.”

“No,” he said, drinking a Sanka, “it isn’t.”

“Are you drinking a Sanka?”

“Sanka is a small good thing.”

“It tastes like shit.”

And then he hung up.

 

Well folks, hope you enjoyed the first installment of “Most Famous Stories in The Portland Review.” Noice to be back here. Morty out. What? Helen? You need more cream? Sure. I’ll just go to the bakery and purchase some. TiVo me the program. You know. The one with the negros on it. What? I can’t hear you. Eh.

You and Me, Babe–Chuck Barris

Here at the Portland Review we are always on the lookout for guest contributors. You can view our submission guidelines at http://portlandreview.submishmash.com/submit. So, without further ado, here’s Robert Hershorn.

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For Chuck Barris, the early 1970s must have seemed an appropriate, if not exactly opportune, time to finally Write That Novel.  His career was hitting a rough spot after the salad days of the ‘60s, when he nearly single-handedly revitalized the television game show format.  The Newlywed Game, the last of his production company’s signature shows, had been dropped from network rotation.  The Gong Show was still a few years off, and Barris had a wife and young daughter to clothe and feed.  Why not put out a quickie love story and let the chips fall where they may?

You and Me, Babe seems to fit the bill; it is, at its core, about two people who are hopelessly in love with each other.  But it’s far from conventional, as its 350 some-odd pages also support a bildungsroman, a character study, a road saga, a barely-disguised memoir, and (most intriguingly) a tortured confessional.  The reader certainly isn’t overcome with blubbering sobs or whoops of joy at the novel’s conclusion, though a wistful sigh would perhaps be in order.

Tommy Christian, the Barris alter ego, is the son of a dreary dentist in Queens.   At some point during his formative years, he encounters his sister’s friend Samantha Jane Wilkerson snooping through his bedroom.  The dashing Tommy duly informs her to get her fat ass the hell out of his sanctum sanctorum, totally blind to the obvious crush she has on him.  His reprobate interest is piqued three years later, when a much hotter Sammy makes an appearance at his sister’s wedding, and his mother reminds him that the young Ms. Wilkerson stands to inherit one of the largest fortunes in the United States.

We’re in the cute love story phase at this point, as Tommy starts a sort of half-hearted pursuit of Sammy that turns more serious when he realizes that he stands a good shot of winning her hand.  The two are wed over the protestations of Sammy’s scandalized parents, and they begin an extended honeymoon across the US and Europe, as Tommy pursues various career goals such as selling cuing machines to television studios and writing the Great American Novel.  Tommy and Sammy provide each other encouragement, love, and emotional support, and the two embark upon their marriage as a kind of great adventure.  The reader, of course, sits around and waits for someone to croak.

During the first three-quarters of You and Me, Babe, it’s easy to get the notion that Sammy’s goose is cooked.  Things are too perfect between the lovebirds; disaster must surely be waiting to strike.  Since Tommy is the one doing the narrating, it’s naturally Sammy who’s marked for death.  One could be forgiven for thinking she exists only to be exterminated, sweating through the sheets of her hospice bed as the tumors take their grisly toll, but not before she teaches Tommy what love really means.  Barris’ narration would certainly seem to support this notion.  He humanizes his leading lady, but he also can’t help holding her up as a paragon, and he very often writes of her ruefully, as something that has been irretrievably lost.  And since Barris is looking for a surefire hit with his dime store romance, that’s the way things have to go, right?

Tommy does lose Sammy, but Barris has a much more mundane fate in store for him than that of the early widower.  Our beat-the-odds love story turns stale, and becomes a particularly meticulous version of another old standby: the warts-and-all documentation of a disintegrating marriage.  Things just stop working between Tommy and Sammy; money becomes an issue, and the two find that they can no longer relate to each other, despite still being very much in love.

The touches of humor Barris employed earlier in the novel mostly vanish, as youth in bloom is replaced by drifting inertia, broken at times only by a desperate grasping for a bygone past or a sad, futile attempt at new thrills.  The author is extremely close to his protagonist, and the last part of the book reads as an accounting of the bad end of Barris’ own married life.  There are quarrels, reconciliations, fleeting moments of happiness, vicious blow-ups.  Barris does away with much of his narrative structure, seemingly concerned only with getting everything down for posterity.

One could accuse Barris of pulling a bait-and-switch, luring the reader in with a lightly quirky and warmhearted love story before laying down his litany of failure and remorse.   But the novel itself is really only a jumping-off point.  Barris, beyond weaving a good yarn or trying out a new angle to make some quick cash, is really concerned with trying to understand all that had happened to him by the time he was in his early forties.  Why did his parents get sick and die?  Why did his friends grow up and disappoint him, and then also die?  Why has he become successful beyond imagining while becoming desperately unhappy at the same time? Why aren’t things as simple as they used to be?  It is in this context that the more plaintive passages from earlier in the novel start to make sense.  Barris is in mourning after all, for his marriage and for the person he was at twenty, twenty-four, twenty-six.

These are sad things to dwell on, and tenacious problems to take on.  The edition of this novel that I own is billed as The New You and Me, Babe, with apparent revisions and expansions made by Barris sometime in the mid-2000s.  The “New” features of the novel are touted jauntily on the book’s cover, but it seems troubling that Barris would want to go back over such harsh territory, even with the distance of thirty years.  Troubling, perhaps, but not all that surprising: the demons Barris dragged out in You and Me, Babe will be with him for a lifetime.   Perhaps it’s only right that he stop in on them every once in a while, pin them down, and try to get some answers.

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When Robert Hershorn isn’t writing for a DC-based news wire, he’s thinking up film reviews or else drafting fake correspondence and oral histories.

TaBla Rasa–Famous Drafts of Literature Mentioning TaB

TaB is the cola that time forgot. And yes, it is capitalized as TaB. It was the first diet soda, introduced by the goodly people at Coca-Cola in 1963, and was marketed to ladies as a way to keep “TaBs on your health!” It was also a mindsticker. Whatever that means.

The soda enjoyed robust sales and popularity until Diet Coke was introduced in 1982. TaB was dealt what should have been a killing blow in the mid-80’s when the saccharine scare hit America. People were convinced that artificial sweeteners would murder you in your sleep. TaB soldiered on. Nothing could kill it. TaB was now the cola that would not die. For whatever reason, vanity, sales, deal with Satan, Coca-Cola did not stop producing TaB. Today, it exists in its quaint 1960’s packaging with most people unaware of its existence. Coca-Cola stopped marketing TaB in the 80’s but they still produce it. That seems like a poor business model: not advertising your product, but whatever.

Because of all of this, TaB was left a mark on literature. Here are some famous first drafts that had mentioned that grail of colas, but for some reason (flow, structure, not getting an endorsement from the Coca-Cola company) were cut.

Easter Parade–Richard Yates.

“Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life because they had never tasted TaB, and looking back it always seemed that the trouble began with their parents’ divorce.”

Catcher in the Rye–J.D. Salinger

“I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of terrible, terrible fall. . . . The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. . . . So they gave up looking. Fortunately, I had found TaB.”

Goodbye Columbus–Philip Roth

“His breath smelled of hair oil (like TaB) and his hair of breath (smelling like TaB) and when he spoke, spittle cobwebbed the corners of his mouth (reminding me of TaB). God, I needed a cool refreshing TaB!”

Gravity’s Rainbow–Thomas Pynchon

“Goddamn! Slothrop thought to himself as he looked in the mirror. I am one fat sunnofabitch! I should start keeping TaBs on my health! Then I’ll be a real mindsticker and that mean ol’ rocket and dominatrix won’t make me eat shit!”

“Ode on a Grecian TaB–” John Keats

“TaB is truth, TaB beauty,–that is all

Ye know on earth—TaB!

It’s all you really need to know, you guys! TaB!”

“The Road Not Taken–“Robert Frost”

“Two colas diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not drink both
And be one drinker, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as brown,
And having perhaps the better taste
Because it was hairy tasting and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two colas diverged in a diner, and I—
I took the one less tasted by,
And that has made all the difference”

Words O Wisdom From Chuck

“Besides,” interrupted my sister, “you know what Groucho Marx said. He said, ‘If you marry for money you pay for it.”
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“Looking out of train windows has the same effect on me as watching a fire in a fireplace. I think about things.”
————————————————————————————————-
“I stayed in the kitchen and reviewed our conversation. I had impressed Samantha. There was no doubt about that. I wasn’t like her run-of-the-mill boyfriends. It was obvious that Sammy was bored with the social dandies she had been used to dating. I was different. I was ambitious and colorful, and had a charisma that excited her. And she was rich and bored, and vulnerable.”
————————————————————————————————-
 “If somebody was going to marry Samantha Jane Wilkerson for her money, he was going to have to earn every penny of it. So I’m an opportunist, am I? They should have paid me to take her off their hands.”
————————————————————————————————-
“”Yes.”
“You don’t love her at all?”
“Not really.”
————————————————————————————————-
“How?” I said. “I’ll tell you how. Maybe it’s because our mother drummed the thought to marry for money into our heads year in and year out, from the day we were born. Or maybe it’s because I’m too stupid or selfish to care. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because life beats you so black and blue that you realize at an early age your mother was right?: Money is the only common denominator that everybody respects (Note: It would make sense for a period to go here but Chucky Baby has thoughtfully decided against it. Or the publisher. Either way only the exact language is being used.)  money is the only key to every door, and if you’ve got a crack at getting your hands on the stuff, grab it!”
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Please!” said my Sammy, sounding like a trapped housewife pleading with a rapist.”
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“Yes.” The woman smiled. “I can tell. I can always tell.” Two hours later, the Hilton house doctor diagnosed Sammy’s fainting spell as acute food poisoning. I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved that Sammy wasn’t pregnant, or disappointed.”
————————————————————————————————-
“You play tennis against a lousy tennis player, you play like a lousy tennis player. You talk to an idiot, you talk like an idiot.”
————————————————————————————————-
“The program’s over!” chirped the blond actress. “I guess now’s the time you stuff it in me, right?”
————————————————————————————————-

“Later in bed we made a child.”
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The wisest of men.