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.


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.




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.”


“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…


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.”


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.”


“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.

Businesses We Love

Apropos of nothing, I love this business: For those of you who don’t know, doggles are goggles for dogs. All you need to do is replace the G with a D. I saw a dog wearing doggles the other day. I told my chauffeur, “I do believe that that doggie is wearing doggles.”

“Sir, this is not your car.”

“No, really. That dog is wearing doggles.”

“Oh. Wow. Cool.”

“Isn’t it great?”

“Did you make that up?”

“NO! They’re actually called doggles! There’s a website!”

“How do you know that?”

“I think I read it off of boingboing or something.”



“Get out.”

Business man/rich person gets in and says, “Who is this street rat? Get him out!”


End scene

And now, some pictures of dogs wearing doggles.

1995 A.D.

1995 A.D.


                                                            Long Island


“Can I write off this expense?” was the immortal line that made Robert Johns put fingers to keyboard and emerge as the chief documentarian of the late twentieth century. It has been said that Robert was the most insightful pundit on what life was like in 1995. All that is known of the man is that he worked in a furniture store, as a futon salesman, and spent hours on the Internet writing his portraits of customer types. It is known that Robert was a fairly dresser outside of work. He exclusively wore t-shirts with wolves howling in front of moons, but at work he wore the best discount tweed suits that money could buy.

It is believed that this document came from early in his career, just out of college, as it is titled: I’m in the Furniture Trade. Got a New Job Today. The following is taken from the beginning of the ruminations.

This is the Lady Asking Me Life Advice


“Can I write off this expense?” she asked. This is the kind of woman who comes into the store in the early morning and touches all the furniture. She wears a sensible black pantsuit so that she can go straight into her place of employment. She is covered in cat hair, probably. Because of my allergies, I start sneezing as soon as I walk into the Contact Zone. The Contact Zone is an invisible circle around the customer—a three-inch radius emitting from his or her person. I am to enter into that Zone, make eye contact, and lull the customer into purchasing our wares.

Herman, my boss, insists that this is a proper sales model. The Zone was the model for how he made his first ten thousand. The lady is not at all interested in futons. She confesses to me that she prefers couches but wants to see some prices. I offer a speech about a model but she cuts me off and asks me if she can write off this expense, pointing at a futon. It turns out this is for her office waiting room. She once ate a can of peeled tomatoes. She leaves without taking a business card.

The Man Who Does Not Talk But Simple Mutters Unintelligibly


Twice a week, a man will come into the store and when I enter into his Contact Zone he mumbles at me. He is very thin and very short. His body mass index is out of proportion, making him look like the miniature scarecrows in my model train set.

The scarecrows dot the landscape for the replica of the LIRR Nassau BLVD Line.

The man who does not talk but simple mutters unintelligibly points at pieces of furniture that are not in my sales section, such as bookcases and rugs.

He then mumbles.

I can see the grease dripping down from the side of his mouth from the pizza he ate for lunch. He smells rather delightful.

The Lost Child

He will be wearing a t-shirt with the alien Alf on it and will be running in a circle five feet wide. He will accidentally smack his face into the futon, as he does not look where he is going. Once he starts crying, Herman will come over and reprimand me for not watching the dreadful child. Neither of us knows where his parents are or what he is doing here, all we know is that this child is here and I am being written up for not watching him. I highly doubt that the child is in the market for a futon.

The Fellow Who Is In The Wrong Store

Everyday a man in a black suit will come into the store. Sweat will be oozing from his forehead and he will refuse to take off his sunglasses. Herman will shake his head at me, pointing at me to engage. The man’s tie is not tied properly—his knot is wildly uneven. The fellow who is in the wrong store will ask for a napkin the instant I enter into his Contact Zone. He will demand that I validate his parking, life. He does not own an automobile.

One of Herman’s Ex-Girlfriends

Herman will run into the office in the back room. A woman will walk into the showroom with a stride full of purpose. All of the salesmen and women will leave the floor for fear of Contact Zone violence. The woman, wearing Capezios and a t-shirt, is visibly ten years younger than Herman. I should date her, as she is my age. She carries a box full of Herman’s Spoon records. Telephone is a boring album. She stomps on them. After she leaves, it is my job to clean up the jagged cd pieces of Herman’s life. I plan on demanding her number from Herman because I know she and I both have one thing in common—an undying hatred of Herman.

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”