Aug 17, 2020, 05:55AM

Adventures in Self-Promotion

The publicist says I’d make a good publicist.

59ffdf71 26b0 4eda 99d8 9199e75a776b.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

“You need to increase your online presence,” the editor of my first novel told me. That was in 2013, when I had a measly 14 Twitter followers. After three years of assiduous application and with the publication of a second novel on the horizon, in 2016 I had 444.

It was Norman Mailer (or was it Ernest Hemingway?)—one of history’s greatest self-promoters, his first book featured no fewer than six blurbs on its front cover)—who said, every famous writer is known for two things: writing and boxing, writing and drinking, writing and getting nailed in the New York Public Library.

“Should I release the sex tape now or wait another week?” Tweet.

Patty Marx gave me a good blurb. (“I love this book, but I wish there were more dogs in it.”) Patty’s a writer I admire and her words of support mean the world to me. Also, her words of support, printed on the back of my book due out that summer, might mean the world to others, I’d considered, when I’d asked her. 

“Thanks, Patty,” I said, as we walk through the Metropolitan Museum. It was January and we’d just left a talk about “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age.” The talk was about a very ugly woman who became the mistress of a very rich man who took her from Virginia to New York City and bought her a lot of stuff. There was her hideously ornate piano. There was her oil portrait, all chins and glasses. “You’d think they’d have photo-shopped that out,” Patty said, staring up. Then I told her how the meeting went:

“Imagine you’ve murdered someone in self-defense. And after, the witness to your reluctant crime, the cop who responded a hair too late to your 911 call, looks at the body and then at you and says, “You know, you’re pretty good at this.”

Patty nodded.

“They like my flap copy. The publicist says I’d make a good publicist.”

I’d just come from the publisher’s publicity and marketing meeting and was still wearing my ostentatiously subtle gray flannel skirt suit. In a large conference room, empty but for the book’s editor, publicist, publisher, and marketing strategist, I stood at the head of the table—no one else was standing there—and imagined myself CEO of MYSELF.

I pressed my knuckles into the wood until they went white and addressed the room: “You ever read the blurbs on the back of a book and wonder if those celebrities have ever even read it? I’d like to host a national contest in which people compete to praise my book—sight unseen—for the prize of having their name and unfounded flattery printed on the book jacket alongside the names of the ‘celebrities’ whose endorsements we’ve already collected. We can list the blurbs we already have from Kurt Andersen, Diane Keaton, Edmund White, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Ames, etc. in the contest ad, which will basically be an ad for the book, and then say something like, ‘Your name here!’”

“Any other ideas?” asked the Vice President of MYSELF (my editor).

I nodded. “I’m thinking of becoming the toast of the town.”

“Vertigo reboot called Lumbago.” Tweet.

“Have started pronouncing the L in half.” Tweet.

“It’s obvious someone broke into my apartment and stole my spatula.” Tweet.

Advertisements for the contest appeared in early March in The Paris Review, The Rumpus, Electric Literature… but before they did, I had to build a new website. I already had one for my first book (Iris Has Free Time) but now needed a website as the author of two books (Iris Has Free Time and Dating Tips for the Unemployed) and, more specifically, a landing page for my contest.

“You’re a horrible person,” the web-designer texted me. “That’s fine,” I texted back. “But can you vary the fonts a little?”

The advertisement deadline was a day away when the web designer wrote me about a family tragedy. I felt bad, but I’d also spent three years writing a book. “I’m sorry for your loss. By the way, the site needs to go live by Monday,” I texted back, from a Starbucks in East Hampton. 

I live in Manhattan, but was staying in East Hampton for two months as Guild Hall’s first writer-in-residence. I was honored. They’d sent me a questionnaire before I got there, asking after my particular artistic needs. “A chair, a desk, a printer, Internet.”

The Internet in my chairless, deskless, printerless room was down, so I’d gone to Starbucks at 5:30 a.m. to email my publicist ideas for the press kit and also to tell her, my editor and agent the good news about winning the Friedrich Medal.

“The prize was named after my late air-conditioner,” Patty Marx explained, as we walked home one week earlier, from a preview of Noises Off with Andrea Martin, whom I was goosing up for a blurb. (“There are two kinds of people in this world. Those without peanut allergies and those who cannot tolerate peanuts or any food produced or packaged in a facility that processes peanuts. Both will love this book.”) Patty continued: “I made stickers that said, ‘Winner of the Friedrich Medal’ and went into bookstores and stuck them on my first book, Now Everybody Really Hates Me (1996). Nobody’s won the prize since. I’ll give it to you if you want.”

Not only would I receive the Friedrich Medal, Patty and I decided, but Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Carter, and Jane Goodall would not. They’d be nominated, according to the website we’d create to function as the Medal’s home, but would come in second to me. “I think there should be a cash prize, too,” I added. “Maybe $30,000. And we should probably have an awards ceremony where everyone else can come and lose.”

“Great news! Dating Tips for the Unemployed has won the Friedrich Medal! Can we add a banner to the book cover?”

No response from my editor.

No response from my publicist.


An email from my agent: “No more talk about the Friedrich Medal.”

“You’re never too young to start feeling old.” Tweet.

“Just got a great deal on some expired juice!” Tweet.

“The worst part of being a famous writer is the constant sex.” Tweet.

An email from Ruth Appelhof, Guild Hall’s Executive Director: “Alec Baldwin would like to take the artists-in-residence to lunch.”

I was in a house with Tom Yuill, a poet from Texas; Arcmanoro Niles, a painter from DC; and Jennifer Hsu and James Wang, a pair of multi-media artists who were sleeping together. We were each set up with mentors from the Guild Hall Academy, an illustrious organization to whom they’d introduced us in early March at New York City’s Rainbow Room before they honored Sarah Jessica Parker, A.M. Homes, Mary Heilman, and some guy with a lot of money. 250 copies of my first book were included in the gift bag. My mentors, Alan Alda and Bob Balaban, did not attend.

“After trying & failing to get off Lamps Plus mailing list, am writing to ask if they can send me more emails.” Tweet.

“Had souvlaki for lunch and think I ate some of the stick.” Tweet.

“If you look in the mirror & say Mary Pickford 5 times, Mary Pickford will appear beside your reflection & murder you.” Tweet.

I met Bob Balaban at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton. I ordered a grilled cheese followed by an ice cream sundae and told Bob that I want to make movies too, that I made a book trailer, “At Home with Iris Smyles,” for my first novel and hoped to turn it into a web series. Bob was supportive, said he was dog-sitting a dog named Eliot, and thanked a patron who stopped by our table to compliment him on his films. While Bob shook his hand, I thought about fame as an afterlife running concurrent to this one and reflected on the future imagined in the past—Bob’s role in 2010.

“[Mr. Balaban], will I dream?” Tweet.

The next day I was online trying to decide where to hold my book party. “Something really glamorous,” I told Frederic Tuten—my favorite writer, best friend, and co-star of my soon-to-be web-series—over the phone. Fred is 79 and has knee trouble, so I bought him a fluorescent green Lucite cane for his birthday. I have hip trouble, which, on the bright side, makes me feel grown up. When we go out together, we don matching canes. “A way to distinguish yourself, like Mark Twain in his white suit!” Frederic said the first time he saw me got up with my walking stick. “Hemingway and bullfighting…” I mused. “Bursitis could be my second thing!”

My friend Jennifer Wright had recently had a book party at The Box, and Jeff Wilser, a book party at Highlands. “Really, really glamorous,’ I told Fred, whose last book party was hosted at the home of world-renowned painter David Salle. “The Central Park Boat House or The Plaza!”I Googled both to get a sense of the price. Then I Googled Econo Lodge.

I spent the day composing a letter to Econo Lodge.

“What are you working on while you’re here?” Alec Baldwin asked the artists-in-residence over lunch at Citta Nuova on Newtown Lane.

“Tweets and emails,” I said when it was my turn. I gave Hilaria, his wife, a postcard advertising my blurb contest.

“My gynecologist is obsessed with my vagina.” Tweet.

“Yes, you’re an alien killing-machine with acid for blood, but are you happy? #alien” Tweet.

“It's not even close to New Year's yet, and I'm already thinking of ringing it in with savings.” Tweet.

I took the Jitney back to Manhattan to speak on a publishing panel at City College. I sat, cane leaning against my chair, before a group of MFA students. “What’s it like?” the moderator, novelist Emily Raboteau, asked me.

“You’ve written this book, it’s your baby, and now you’re running through the jungle with it and they’re shooting at you from all sides. The thing to remember is, keep running!” I answered a little too vehemently. The room was silent. I felt like a Roman soldier who, having performed unspeakable atrocities while at war is not permitted back within the city walls and, anyway, he doesn’t want to return, for violence has changed him, has robbed him of his humanity, made him half barbarian. “They’ll want to put a pink cover on your book and call it chick lit 2.0!”

An email from Martin Mull. How’s this for a blurb? “Similar to War and Peace but much funnier and shorter.”—Martin Mull. I emailed back instructions for him to Save The Date: “I’m planning a very exclusive black-tie, red carpet, ‘free continental breakfast’ in the lobby of the Econo Lodge in NYC, from six-nine a.m., next to the ice machine. I’m responsible for the red carpet and step-and-repeat, but Econo Lodge is covering the Danishes.”

“Sorry we didn’t get back to you sooner,” said Kathy Bejarano, assistant general manager and head of Econo Lodge Times Square. “We didn’t think you were real.”

I shrugged. “I get that a lot.”

“The free continental breakfast is a big draw for the Lodge,” Kathy explained. In lieu of the event, Portia, her assistant, suggested breakfast would be brought up to the rooms that day.

“Guests of the hotel will be invited provided they’re in black tie,” I answered.

Portia suggested they send an email two weeks in advance, notifying hotel guests of the event, so they can pack tuxes and gowns.

“Good idea. The dress code is very strict. We’re going to be honoring the National Blurb Contest Winner here!”

“For Halloween next year I’m going as a dog who can’t stop licking his balls. #plasticcone #petcone” Tweet.

A notification from Instagram: Sarah Jessica Parker has photographed her bookshelf with my first novel on it! I check my Amazon ranking—a spike in sales. One less copy available. Tweet.

I post pics on Facebook… Twitter… Instagram. I’m in a dress at The Rainbow Room… my hair is up at the DoublesClub… on stage at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library I lean on my cane—Heart (a clothing designer that follows me is impressed by my bursitis). I tend to my Amazon author page.

“Cashier says Le Pain Quotidien does not mean Suffering Daily.” Tweet.

“My fast food restaurant will be called "Burger Viscount" and serve only the lower nobles.” Tweet.

“The HokeyPokey is actually a pagan ritual designed 2 draw blood from the rectum of one’s enemies while inviting wealth 4 the song’s enactors.” Tweet.

“They won’t use the author photo I want,” I told my oldest friend, the photographer Chris Stein. “They think it looks staged.” It was a snap of me in a vintage fur coat in Geneva, taken the year before when I went to visit the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in order to meet guys. I showed Chris the photo, black and white, blurry, far away.

“You look like a benevolent dictator from the future.”

“Right? Yet they want me to hire a photographer, have my make-up done, stage something candid.

Chris and I went out the next day to take photos in Central Park with my cane, and then ended up at the Met dining room, and after, looking up at a painting—an 18th-century portrait of a rich man and his wife picnicking in the woods, an elaborately staged hunting tableau with a dead fowl in the foreground, next to the sandwiches. “I’d like to do something like that,” I said wistfully.


“Marry rich.”

“I feel the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy some days more than others.” Tweet.

“Thought I saw Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's at my gym, but it was John Stossel.” Tweet.

“It’s hard to choose, but I’d say the best part of talking on the phone with my mom is when she second guesses every one of my decisions.” Tweet.

“The eyes are really the testicles of the face.” Tweet.

Jitney, East bound…

Every Saturday, the artists-in-residence have breakfast at 1770 House. Randye Lordon, our maître’d, tells us she writes mystery books, asks us about our work, and brings fruit for the table.

The painter doesn't like fruit and gives me his; he smiles.

“Trying to find those tear-away clothes male strippers wear so I can undress in one swift movement.” Tweet.

“Everyone’s got a problem with ‘amateur drunks,’ while the amateur pianists are let off easy.” Tweet.

“Mom: Just get married already. It’s not like you have to STAY married.” Tweet.

“The lesser sins are punished with trips to the post office.” Tweet.

I was lying in my bed at Guild Hall, working on my tweets and emails, before I went down to the kitchen for more coffee and found the poet in gym shorts and penny loafers, tea in hand. “Mind if I read you four poems I just wrote?”


“Fair enough,” he said, before telling me instead what each poem was about. “What are you working on?”

“My online dating handle is Keyser Soze.” Tweet.

“How many people in this airport just realized Macauley Culkin is not with them?” Tweet.

“Mixed Nuts are mostly peanuts. The sooner one accepts this, the sooner one can start to heal.” Tweet.

I went back upstairs and emailed everyone I do and don’t know a link to my blurb contest. After three years of whoring around on Facebook, I had over 1000 “friends.” But I had to send the emails in batches of 70 as my email provider wouldn’t permit a mass email any larger. Five days later, I completed the Zs.

“And if I should refuse to wang chung?” Tweet.

Marianna Feldman Levine, Artist-in-Residence administrator, asked if I had any special lighting or audio needs for the presentation coming up that Sunday at the John Drew Theater, and also, how was my residency going? Had I gotten any work done? Perhaps a new book in the works?

“Tons!” I told her I had a number of deadlines I was racing to meet. I didn’t tell her one of those deadlines was finalizing the design on the underwear I planned to give away “free with purchase” at select readings. But I did tell David Rattray, editor of the East Hampton Star.

“The Victoria’s Secret Semi Annual Sale comes faster and faster every year until you die.” Tweet.

I’d met him for lunch a week later along with local gallery owner Eric Firestone, who’d told David he liked my tap dancing. There was a moment in the Two Mile Hollow beach parking lot where I’d gone to practice my routine prior to Sunday’s literary presentation, when I thought, maybe I shouldn’t tap dance. Serious writers don’t tap dance. But then I thought about it some more and realized, they probably just can’t tap dance and resumed my time steps.

“Dogula: movie about a vampire dog.” Tweet.

“Was feeling lonely, but then I got a whole bunch of anonymous hate mail.” Tweet.

“Took a shower, so I'm ‘clean’ now.” Tweet.

After the tap dancing/reading on stage at the John Drew Theater, Eric Firestone told David Rattray, who’d moderated the closing Q&A session, that he should hire me to be the literary editor for his new magazine, East, launching in June.

“She’s got something,” David told me Eric told him, when he responded finally to my pitch about publishing five excerpts from my book “and maybe a centerfold of me looking irritated.”

‘“I like the way she put you in your place,”” David said Eric said.

I’d caused a few hoots after David asked if my writing would be considered “chick lit,” seeing as I’m a woman and my female narrator describes her romantic life. “The male narrator of Dante’s Inferno tells us plenty about his love for Beatrice, but nobody calls The Divine Comedy dick lit,” I answered. The women applauded.

Sold: 40 books in Guild Hall lobby. Amazon ranking: Level.

“My rebellious streak really comes out when I see “Must Wash Hands" sign in public rest rooms. Tweet.

Eric’s gallery would make a fine event space, I thought, passing by the next day, and figured it was a good idea we meet for lunch and suggested that David set it up.

“Was feeling low but then I met these nice people in the subway who offered to shave my head, gave me a tambourine, and taught me this cool new song.” Tweet.

Over gyros at John Papas Diner, David and Eric asked why I was making commemorative underwear, and I explained about whisper campaigns: “The underwear will say ‘I love Iris Smyles’ on the fly. Young single readers will go to bars or parties or wherever young single people go these days and after, bring another young single person home with them. Things will heat up. The clothes will come off. Then they’ll see the underwear—‘Who’s Iris Smyles?’ one will ask—prompting an impassioned conversation about literature and my hotly anticipated new book.”

“Like a billboard.” Eric nodded.

Then I asked him if he’d be my Dating Czar.

“I’m single,” I explained sadly, and began describing the website I was about to launch.

“It’s called: ‘SoYouWantToDateIrisSmyles.com.’ There will be a picture of me on the home page, in a heart, and a greeting along the lines of ‘If you’ve arrived at this page, you’ve likely met Iris Smyles or else read her work and are wondering how to make her yours…’ I’m tired of men courting me without bothering to buy my book,” I explained. “Also, take off your hat and hold the door for god’s sake. I’m old fashioned!”

“The website will have an electronic application and a page full of courtship tips. Here’s where you come in, Eric,” I said, stealing his fry. “I’d like to hold a ‘So You Want to Date Iris Smyles Workshop’ at your gallery, during which participants can attain the skills they need to make me love them. And maybe some tai chi and a green juice sponsor. Also, as my dating Czar, you’ll use your mailing list to set me up with one date per week for the rest of the summer.”

“What’s in it for me?” Eric asked not unreasonably.

“If one of your introductions should lead to marriage, you’ll get a cut of the dowry. One sheep,” I explained, on my way out. “We’ll film it.”

“‘Before there was the last tango, there was the second-to-last tango.’ #PenultimateTangoInParis #prequel” Tweet.

“Just realized Field of Dreams is about baseball. Completely missed the baseball stuff first time around. #rewatchingfieldofdreams” Tweet.

“Was in shower thinking about Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract video, how the obstacles listed in the lyrics don't include that he's a cat.” Tweet.

I had to hurry back to the city after lunch to check out the space at McNally Jackson bookstore where they were hosting one of my readings, and see if there’d be enough room for the fire jumping, or if I’d have to limit myself to a quick song. I was also supposed to meet with Michael Almereyda (Hamlet 2000), the filmmaker who’d directed my last book trailer, to discuss his directing another as part of my web-series.

His wild auteur-hair reached up toward the Mogador Cafe ceiling. He sniffed. “A scene with an animal. A turtle maybe… They’re always good.”

“Frederic and I would like to do a sex tape,” I broached. “I’m thinking black and white, real old timey, silent. Dialogue on text cards between shots of me answering the door in a lacey frock to a pizza boy circa 1917—Frederic in short pants. ‘I didn’t order any pizza,’ I say. Frederic flings the pizza box and takes me in his arms. Then the screen goes black and the viewer understands I’m getting it good.”

“Finally googled ‘Sudio.’” Tweet.

“Why do people keep taking things that belong to Liam Neeson?” Tweet.

“I cleaned my bathroom with vinegar and now it smells like salad.” Tweet.

East Hampton Starbucks… 5:30am… Second round of proofs… Send.

Breakfast at 1770 House: The poet reads a few lines of Berryman then says, "In this world, having a lawyer is even more important than having a doctor." He tells us about all the people he's thinking of suing. The painter gives me half his frittata and smiles. The multimedia team take iPhone photos of each other. I give Randye a copy of my first novel.

“Had just finished filling my pockets with stones and was about to head over to the river when the new Ikea catalog arrived. #ilive4accenttables” Tweet.

“Getting into jello. #thisshitsamazing” Tweet.

“Maybe Lamps Plus won't let me unsubscribe because they understand my needs better than I do. Maybe it’s time I stop running from Lamps Plus.” Tweet.

Over scones at The Maidstone, I told Alan Alda I wanted to do a public access show for East Hampton’s LTV. He told me he was writing a new book about science education, and I told him about my trip to the Large Hadron Collider to meet guys. “On my show I wanted to interview locals—like The Tonight Show, but instead of Reese Witherspoon, a guy who works in a kitchen tile showroom.” He suggested I interview the internationally renowned painter Eric Fischl who lives nearby.

“Ask him which animal he most identifies with. If he says ‘cow,’ you shoot a cow.”

“To kill or to maim?”

“You shoot the cow with Eric in voice over.”

“My apartment is 84.5% dark matter.” Tweet.

“Ugh! Another article comparing me to Philip Roth.” Tweet.

Lying in bed in the midday dark, waiting for an email from my editor informing me of the book’s official print run, my agent informing me if The New Yorker will publish an excerpt, some guy—always some guy—and contemplating my lonely life alone, and the fact that it will only ever get worse, worse, worse, until I die, I receive a text from my friend Ashleigh: “How’s it going? The Rainbow Room!!! Your life looks so glamorous on FB!”

“Reading Knut Hamsun's memoir about dieting. It's good, but where are the recipes?” Tweet.

“What I NEED is my own breakdancing crew. #thingsItellmymomwhenshetellsmeIneedtogetmarried” Tweet.

“Dad says I should go viral. ‘What you should do is get on YouTube and go viral!” #BookPR. “Style tip: use commas instead of exclamation points for a more subtle effect,” Tweet.

An emergency with the blurb contest! The publisher’s legal team is up in arms. The contest must be suspended until it's sorted out. We’re not allowed to say outright that you don’t have actually to have read the book. Also, on the book jacket, we need to disclose next to the winner’s name that they’ve received compensation for their endorsement (compensation for the book endorsement is the prize of getting to endorse the book). Three days later we settle on the following language: “[Blurb Contest Winner] was paid for this endorsement.”

French toast at 1770. The multi-media team are tired from a long night of sexting. The poet says his father wanted him to be a lawyer but he decided to grow his hair long. The painter gives me a potato, with his eyes.

“Henry Thoreau died today at 9am in 1862. His last words were ‘Moose’ and Indian.’” Tweet.

At Starbucks I send in my third round of proofs, then post a YouTube clip on Facebook, the end of Mad Max, when Max handcuffs a guy’s ankle to a burning car, gives him a saw and says, “The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It'd take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you're lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five,” and rides off.

“If you keep making changes,” my editor told me a few minutes before, regarding the third round of proofs, “we’ll miss the pub date.”

I re-watched the clip—the car exploding behind Max, as he drives on in a gone-mad world.

“My editor is Mad Max.” Tweet.

At a dinner party at Eric Fischl and April Gornick’s homein Sag Harbor, Neda Young, a Croatian industrialist and art collector, said she’d like to throw me a book party. “Don’t change,” she warned. “You’re so sweet. And the dancing!” I smoothed my dress, reflecting on the corrupting influence of lack of fame. The painter David Salle came over, said,“You look like you’re on your way to a job interview.”

“What’s the job?”

“Human Resources.”

I opened my phone—an email from my publicist, the first review in from Kirkus: “Smyles delivers a maddening and moving not-quite-novel, not-quite-memoir about a wayward eccentric who can’t connect with others.” “In pick up artist circles, this is what’s called ‘negging,’” I typed above the link I posted to my Facebook Author Page.

“All Happy Meals resemble one another, each unhappy meal is unhappy in its own way.” Tweet.

“Have started naming my floaters. #spinster” Tweet.

Walking through the Amagansett estate of Lucy and Steve Cookson, Lucy says, "I'm going to Venice for a painting workshop. You can borrow my beach house." Then she shows me Steve's balloon art—a 3’x7’ needlepoint Venus de Milo, threaded with deflated balloons, a 3’x4’ black hole… Lucy exhibits her soft shoe. I answer with a time step. We decide to choreograph a dance together when she returns. Steve teaches me to juggle.

The balls are flying in their Architectural Digest kitchen. One ends up in an orange tree planter. “I used to teach juggling at libraries. The trick is,” Steve says, “to always be throwing the next one.”

I leave with three tennis balls. “Practice!” Steve yells after me. My footsteps on the gravel driveway sound like a Cabasa.

I turn. Steve and Lucy wave from the doorway.

“How am I supposed to take Milan Kundera seriously as a novelist when he's not even on twitter?” Tweet.

“#Sunsetporn victimizes sunsets. #boycottsunsetporn.” Tweet.

“No one's joining my Ishtar Fan Club :(” Tweet.

“One day our national anthem will be replaced with Paula Abdul’s “Straight up Now Tell Me” and no one will know why.”  Tweet.

“From now on I will greet all celebrities with ‘I loved you in Platoon,’ regardless of whether or not they were in Platoon.” Tweet.

“Going to quit writing in order to focus full-time on winning call in radio prizes.” Tweet.

“Should I choose a husband and get married this year, or a life of adventure aboard a Japanese whaling vessel?” Tweet.

“Middle-Aged Mutant Turtles with Ninja Injuries, in which the turtles struggle w chronic joint pain, alimony & teenage turtles of their own.” Tweet.

“Tweet hard, play hard.” Tweet.

“My publicist unfollowed me.” Tweet.

At the closing reception for Guild Hall’s Artists-in-Residence, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz asked how the residency had gone, what I’d worked on. I told him about a short story I didn’t write about a man being beaten with an umbrella, how it’s been a lot like that. “He likes being beaten with the umbrella finally; they’re soft blows. I hope you’ll come to my book party.” “Of course!” said Marty Cohen, Guild Hall Chairman. “We love this girl!” he told Harper Levine, owner of Harper’s Books, where I’m thinking to host the “free mixer” following graduation from the “So You Want to Date Iris Smyles Workshop” where applicants will have the chance to actually meet Iris Smyles.

“Marty thinks you’re going to be famous,” Harper said, at Eric Fischl’s “Rift Raft” opening the following week in New York City.

“What do you think?”

“30% chance.”

I looked down.

“But those are good odds,” he added, comparing it to a weather report.

“Should I bring an umbrella?”

“‘There are two kinds of people in this world,’ Adam told Eve.” Tweet.

“My European boyfriend says "inches" during phone sex, which is so touching because he's on the metric system & has to convert everything.” Tweet.

“Every day, 3 or 4 emails from Lamps Plus. Then 1 morning, no emails from Lamps Plus. Have I done something? Finally, in the afternoon, an email from Lamps Plus!” Tweet.

“Made pleasant small talk with the guy who works at the pizza place. Gonna have to find a new pizza place.” Tweet.

“Romantic comedy about a woman who settles. Then she gets torn apart by a mountain lion.” Tweet.

“If I could, would I even want to live in a world where Paula Abdul had not come out with her 1987 breakout hit?” Tweet.

“Planning my book party. Phone call from mom: ‘What if nobody comes?’” Tweet.

“I love you, Lamps Plus.” Tweet.

The next day I reviewed the blurb contest submissions—over 200! A good one from William Souder, Pulitzer Prize finalist for Under a Wild Sky, a book about the life of Charles Audubon: “Iris Smyles shattering Dating Tips for the Unemployed changed my life. Literally. There’s nothing left to say. I’m giving up writing and getting a real estate license. These are the last words I will ever publish.”

Another from Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic: “Never have I considered rectal bleeding and petit mal seizures so worthwhile—because I didn’t know a book could induce so many spontaneous orgasms (33!) in one day. This book should come with an FDA warning. If this book doesn't win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, then I’m not a Nobel Laureate in economics.”

And another from a young poet, an MFA student at Stonybrook Southampton College named John Stintzi: “Hi Mom.”

Too many good ones to pass over. I decided I’d have to publish a list of finalists on my website… or maybe write an essay announcing the winner and runners up in The Paris Review.

“I didn’t read this book and I didn’t have to.”

On the cover, it said IRIS SMYLES and that’s more than enough for me.

Like logos for Coca-Cola, Fritos, and Entenmann’s, Iris’ name assures me that what’s inside… is so yummy.”

—Alec Baldwin*

*Alec Baldwin was paid for this endorsement.


—Follow Iris Smyles on Twitter: @IrisSmyles



Register or Login to leave a comment