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”


Famous First Draft Lines of Novels

Hello Internet. We recently hired a man, name withheld, to track down first drafts of famous novels. With the use of knives, our man hit a motherload. We didn’t ask how many people died to get you this information. It came in a manilla envelope. Mysterious red and white stains were on it. Our new office manager typed this out. This was a great window into how the greatest minds of our generation constructed their art. Nothing ever comes out easy. They just made it look easy. Enjoy! And suck on it every other website. We got a real coop here. Oh goddammit. Where’s our copy editor?


1) Catcher in the Rye

Anyone who’s everybody knows that John Michael Dorian’s novel starts out with the famous:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Wes Anderson presents

Well. Here’s the first draft of that line:

Hello! Sit down! Have a nosh! My name is Holden, don’t you know? Did the cab take long to get you here? Well, let me tell you about the time I ran away from my upper class rich person boarding school, wandered around New York City, said some naughty words, whined, and ended up in a mental institution. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.


I know. That’s more than one sentence. And clunky. I mean is he Jewish or not? I don’t get it. Why is he in a mental institution? And that last line seems to be plagerized…..

2) David Copperfield

Sure Portland Review. Go for an easy joke.

So J.D. may have stolen this line from the original dollar menu Dickens (Charles):

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

but here’s how that was in first draft:

So, my name is David and this is the story of how much better my life got when my first wife died from a “miscarriage.”

Wow. That isn’t that much different, is it? We don’t know how to read here.

3) Moby Dick

Call me Ishmael.

Clearly this is why Mellville wrote anything

 So, I’m Ishmael and one time I was working as a deckhand on this boat owned by this crazy old sea captain who tried to kill this whale that ate his leg a long time ago.


We kinda like the orginal.

4) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

They’re out there.

They sure are!


Becomes the much less mysterious:


I smothered this weird guy named McMurphy with a pillow today.

5) The Violent Bear it Away

Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.

Boy oh boy. Flannery O’ Connor sure likes specificity, right? OR DID SHE?

MFA students? Ugh. I'll have to change my underpants.

Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle’s first cousin had been dead for only three hours and twenty nine minutes when the boy got too drunk to finish digging the eight foot deep whole of his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson Indiana, who had come to get a jug of oil for his car filled, had to finish it and drag the stinky body from the wooden breakfast table where it was still sitting Indian style and bury it in a decent and Christian (AND BY CHRISTIAN I MEAN CATHOLIC) way, with the sign of its Saviour, Jesus Christ, at the head of the grave, which read Francis Marion Tarwater the 23rd: born 19– died 19– “He died doing nothing he loved,” and enough black dirt on top to keep the weaner pigs from digging it up using their paws.


Dispatches from the press room: Magnes’s Mailbag: And In The End Part 2/3/5: Sunday Mailbag Coming Down

Howdy folks. Elton here.

In the words of Bigfoot: “I not dead” [sic].

I was minding my own business down in the press room, trying to get this issue printed up after weeks and weeks of delays from those dopes upstairs. The editors–an incompetent bunch if I ever saw one–left Magnes to run the place while they all went gallivanting off into the sunset. And if the editors don’t know how to lick a stamp, then Magnes doesn’t even know what a stamp is. Which is funny, since he gets the mail more or less every week. And then wastes your time answering questions no one asked and clutters up your MyFace page and Twatter feeds with his inanity.

Anywhom, I was running the presses–because the magazine’s finally ready to go–when I heard this obscene ringing in my ear like a drill bit whirring into bone. My vision went black and I saw in my mind a red telephone on a rain-battered Ikea table (those Swedes can make anything, can’t they?). The receiver jumped with each ring and with each ring the drill bored deeper into my skull. On the third ring the black went white and the telephone vanished and when I could see again I saw the flesh melting off my own skull in the garbage-filled office of the Portland Review, an office that shuddered with each breath it drew.

What sorcery was this? I touch my face. My skin was still there, but it was my skull, unmistakeably bubbling in the corner, the rest of my body evidently incinerated into a pile of ash at my chin. But I was here. Was that body a creation of the Review or the occupiers or Magnes himself? And what of poor Patty, the tortured assistant to whom I never screwed up the courage to reveal my love? She was even more unrecognizable, reduced to rubble in the fray, just a scrap of her hair to reveal the body’s identity. Scraps of the occupiers decorated the walls and Magnes was locked in conflict with himself and the sentient office. The red telephone was there.

“Don’t answer it!” I yelled.

Magnes reached out his hand and I jumped for the wall and the phone line. Magnes’s hand shot back. His eyes were wild with terror and confusion. I pulled the cord from the wall and creaked my way upright. There was a full minute of silence save the sounds of the Portland Review’s labored breathing.

The phone rang.

The cord was still in my hand.

The phone rang again.

The drill worked deeper into my brain and I fell to my knees.

The phone rang again.

Magnes reached out his hand.

_ _ _

Until next time,

Elton Deacon: Portland Review Master Printer, President Local 442: IBLPOHHIWT, PhD

Dispatches from the press room

A weekly series in which I, Elton Deacon, master printer, union leader, and PhD in comparative literature, fill you in on the REAL goings on at this sweltering dung pile of a literary magazine.

Howdy folks. Elton here.

I’m sure you’re all wondering where I’ve been. Me too. One minute I’m changing my earplugs in the press room, the next I’m sitting cross-legged in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa. I think there may have been a writers’ workshop of some kind or another nearby, because I heard a bunch of idiots hooting and hollering about POETRY! And they were all wondering what was at steak and whether or not some asshole earned his cliche or not. And there I was, scratching my ass and wondering how in the hell I got there. It wasn’t even sweet corn, just that nasty starchy field corn that’ll make ethanol and feed cattle.

Anyway, I was just sitting in the dirt and the shade, watching aphids crawl all over everything, when an incredible sense of calm washed over me and I knew I was on corncation. I never liked Magnes, that squirrely turd of an administrative assistant, but he got the corncation thing right.

Here’s what I think happened: Patty, the idiots’ long-suffering secretary, got tired of Magnes eating her yogurt (Patty’s yogurt, DON’T EAT!), so she set up on a corncation. I was mistaken for Magnes and sent on corncation instead. And I spent six weeks in the dirt and the mud and the rain and the sun and the corn. I found myself steadily coming to peace with the fact that the editors of the Portland Review are incompetent slobs.

And now the issue is on its way to me. And maybe those kids running the show upstairs are damn dummies, but at least they’ve managed to churn out a product. Look for it in the middle of Novemeber.

Until next time,

Elton Deacon: Portland Review Master Printer, President Local 442: IBLPOHHIWT, PhD

Dispatches from the press room

A weekly series in which I, Elton Deacon, master printer, union leader, and PhD in comparative literature, fill you in on the REAL goings on at this sweltering dung pile of a literary magazine.

Howdy folks. Elton here.

Well, seems I’m a bit late to get Magnes out of the sewers. I tell you, that kid is sure annoying–and he’s never put in a day of work in his life. Regular Chicken Little, that one, sky’s falling every day. First, he thinks he’s fired, so he runs away into the sewers with his tail between his legs rather than coming to me–the union president–to see if there’s a way to rectify the problems he caused with that insensitive post. Then, when he gets into the sewers the idiot gets himself stuck in a pipe. And then he thinks he’s the center of the goddamn universe when he can’t grease his way out of there. Like his problem is everyone’s problem. So when I found him while getting rid of some hazardous…I mean…GREEN, SUSTAINABLE waste down there, he thinks I’ve got to drop everything and get him out. Like I don’t have enough to do.

So I left him my bag of Combos (the pepperoni pizza kind) and went over to the Pipe Cutters’ shop out on 82nd and got this saw that’s supposed to detect soft tissue and automatically shut down. I wanted to be able to cut through the pipe without sawing the kid in half. The saw’s still in development, though, and the engineer was on his lunch break–which the union stipulates has to be at least an hour, but can last for as long as three weeks. So I decided to take my lunch break too. Hell, even though I didn’t leave Magnes the butter he asked for, at least he had the Combos. He wasn’t gonna starve.

Anyway, I finally got the saw–it’s pretty nifty–and I went down into the sewers today to set the whiny kid free. What a mess. You’d think he’d been trapped in a pipe for FOUR weeks or something. Somehow he had a black eye (I suspect he punched himself), and any kind of muscle mass the little alien ever had was gone. He looked like a wet grocery bag full of pizza crusts. When he saw me trekking knee-deep through sewage up to his sorry ass, he didn’t thank me. He didn’t ask how my weekend had been. He didn’t apologize for the inconvenience. He just looked up at me, tears and blood and mucous streaming down his face.

“Did you bring any butter?” he asked, his voice cracked and rasping.

I was butter-free at the moment, and I told him so. But I had the saw, and I was ready to cut him out. I started it up. The saw’s motor is a perpetual motion machine, very complicated stuff, and it takes a little while to warm.

“Butter?” Magnes said again.

“No butter,” I told him. The saw was ready. I started cutting, and Magnes screamed through the whole ordeal. It took the better part of four hours to saw through that pipe and he cried and cried and cried. Hell of a way to spend a Sunday off.

Well, turns out the saw isn’t has spectacular as those pipe cutters think it is, and when I pulled him free of the sawed-off pipe, Magnes’s midsection was banded with a nearly complete deep cut, oozing blood and iron grit. Seems the saw has to make a few rounds into soft tissue before it recognizes the change and turns itself off. Oh well, it’s nothing 360 degrees of stitches and a few nights in intensive care won’t fix. At least he’s out of the pipe.

When I dragged him up the the surface, into the blinding light of the subbasement of Smith, he looked around the Portland Review office as if for the first time. Marshall, Michael Magnes (the original), and Mollet were all there, huddled over something on the desk. Something real interesting by the greedy looks on their faces. Magnes crawled off my shoulders and zombie-hobbled over to the three idiots around the desk. He pushed himself between his doppleganger and that oaf Mollet. He reached a hand down toward the desk, palm-down and open. When he brought it back up to eye level, it was covered in creamy yellow goo. Magnes licked his fingers and smiled with satisfaction.

“Butter,” he said, putting his entire fist in his mouth.

Until next time,

Elton Deacon: Portland Review Master Printer, President Local 442: IBLPOHHIWT, PhD

Dispatches from the press room

A weekly series in which I, Elton Deacon, master printer, union leader, and PhD in comparative literature, fill you in on the REAL goings on at this sweltering dung pile of a literary magazine.

Howdy folks. Elton here.

Doesn’t look like those dopes upstairs are any closer to publishing a new issue than they were last week. Earlier today Magnes and Mollet were sitting in the office—Mollet stuffing his stupid face, of course—talking about what they were going to do “to really turn this magazine around.” For all of their talk about groundbreaking policies like “office hours” and “weekly schedules” and “deadlines,” neither of them even mentioned the one thing they could do that would really help The Portland Review—quit.

If they really want to turn this thing around, turn it into a top-tier literary publication, the whole editorial staff ought to hand in their office keys (Mollet finally figured out how to get his. Still no luck getting that computer turned on, though.) and hand the magazine over to me. I’ll appoint competent editors who know something about literature and who pay their union dues on time—Marshall, Magnes, and Mollet are all way past notice and accumulating daily late fees. We’ll see what happens when they’re not dues-current and they need an IBLPOHHIWT lawyer to get them off the hook in a slander case. But those three think they’re above union rules, above the law, and most erroneously, above the minimum literacy standards required to edit a literary journal.

Half the damn time I don’t think they even know I’m down here. I’m pretty sure they’re all under the impression that Santa Claus takes time out of his busy schedule to deliver the issue, perfectly printed and bound, three times a year. Certainly couldn’t come from the printing press in the sub-sub-basement of Smith, where Local 442 works tirelessly to keep this city in literature. Well, I guess last year it’s possible Santa brought the magazine, since, like Christmas, The Portland Review only came once. But I happen to know he didn’t–half my shop couldn’t afford Christmas because they only worked a few days a month. No issues means no work for my union. No work means no wages. No wages means no Santa Claus.

The new crew is always talking about how they’re going to print all three issues, add new subscribers, and generally improve the quality and prominence of the journal. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Until next time,

Elton Deacon: Portland Review Master Printer, President Local 442: IBLPOHHIWT, PhD

Book Review Tuesday: Mary Miller’s “Big World”

First, a confession: I started reading Big World because it fit easily in my purse.  I had recently implemented a new summer exercise plan specifically geared toward graduate students who were having trouble adjusting themselves to summertime.  My plan was as follows:

  1. Plan a really long walk to a pleasant destination, ideally one where beer is served.
  2. Map out a route that includes numerous shady, leafy places where one can stop, sit down a while, and read.
  3. Bring: A smartphone (especially essential for humanities grad students, who in my experience have navigation skills on par with Mr. Magoo), notebook and pen, water, snacks, and a book.

The recommended route for reading "Big World."

The beauty part of the plan is that you can fit everything you need into a purse; the downside is that you may find yourself walking along a park jogging trail feeling like Queen Elizabeth II, hanging onto your little purse for dear life as runners bound past you like gazelles.  I still remain assured of its brilliance, however, especially as I had the best possible test run, mostly because I brought along Mary Miller’s Big World.  I stole it from our managing editor, who was planning to review it, because at four by six inches it was the perfect size–and because I had started reading the first story in the collection that morning and couldn’t put it down.  Over the course of my walk I stopped at every bench, picnic table, and cool patch of grass that I could find, each time telling myself I would read only one more story, and usually reading two.

Though the stories in Big World–thirteen in all–contain protagonists with different names and ages, the book is not so much a collection of separate short stories as it is a series of opportunities for the reader to observe thirteen women who are, essentially, the same woman.  We see her in “Leak” as a girl, living with and ignored by the widowed father she fears; in “Pearl” as a recently divorced legal secretary darting between one night stands; in “Cedars of Lebanon” and “Fast Trains” as a woman trying to make a relationship based on inertia and substance abuse blossom into love; in “Animal Bite” as an unhappily married woman who reevaluates her life after she is attacked by her dog.  This last story contains a passage that could serve as the central question driving each story in the collection:

[The nurse] took a form from a cubbyhole marked ANIMAL BITE and started checking things off.  “Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten with one being no pain at all and tel being the worst pain you have ever felt in your live,” she said.  She pointed to a chart on the wall in case I needed help.  The faces with no pain looked happy and earlier, before the dog bit the shit out of me, I wasn’t in pain but I wasn’t happy, either.  It was misleading, the idea that lack of pain equaled happiness.

Mary Miller

Mary Miller

The characters in Big World are living in a world as constricting as rope–a world they experience this way partly because of their own fears and limitations and partly because, in Miller’s fiction, the world is always limiting, no matter who you are.  In not writing about characters who bravely face off against adversity and triumph against the hands they have been dealt, Miller has in fact done something far braver: depicting people whose lives move in a tentative lockstep of nihilism, with no real end in sight.  The characters she shows us aren’t going anywhere, and she describes the settings and inaction of their lives–the bars, motel rooms, hunting lodges, and malls–with crystalline precision and a knack for conveying the quietly absurd.  Her characters have conversations that neither reveal not conceal their true natures, but indefinitely tread water, as most real conversations do; Big World reveals Mary Miller as a master of the slow-motion hysteria we as contemporary Americans know so well.

–Sarah Marshall, Editor-in-Chief

Buy Mary Miller’s Big World from Hobart’s Short Flight / Long Drive Books, or read an interview with the author at

If you’re an author or publisher who’d like to see your book reviewed here, please inquire at theportlandreview [at] gmail [dot] com, or send a copy to:

The Portland Review
Portland State University
PO Box 347
Portland, Oregon