Misfortune Cookies

By: David Martin

Even the most famous writers have to make a living. Recently retrieved archival material reveals the failed attempts of several famous authors to break into commercial writing.


To: Jean-Paul Sartre

From: Parisian Fortune Cookies Company

Thank you for your list of “realistic” fortunes for our cookies. Unfortunately, we cannot use your submissions at this time. We are returning your list. Please feel free to try us again when you’re feeling better.

The Editors

Realistic Fortunes

1. Your life is a continuous cycle of despair.

2. Your god is dead.

3. Life has no meaning, at least for you.

4. Choice is your eternal curse.

5. Health and prosperity are but words in a dictionary for you.

6. Your waist size will exceed your chest size.

7. You will die a horrible, painful death.

8. The glass is half empty and it has a crack.


To: T.S. Eliot

From: Sunnyside Greeting Cards Inc.

We regret to inform you that the greeting card verses you submitted do not meet our needs at this time. We are therefore returning your submissions. This is no reflection on the quality of your writing. We receive many more greetings than we can use.

The Editors

Modern Greeting Card Verses

You grow old

You grow old

You shall wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled.

Happy 60th Birthday!

You lie there like a patient etherized upon a table…

Get Well Soon!

Shape without form, shade without color…

Paralysed force, gesture without motion.

Happy 25th Anniversary!

This is the way the world ends — not with a bang but a whimper.

With Sincerest Condolences.

Best wishes from us on your wedding day!

There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing…

No end to the withering of withered flowers.


To: Ernie Hemingway

From: Merrill Lynch Financial Newsletter

Thank you for your proposed “literary” stock forecasts (enclosed). While we do not question your expertise, we feel your work is not a good fit for our publication at this time. Please try us again in a bull market.

The Editors

Literary Stock Forecasts

IBM: Three letters suggesting a man soiled himself. Where is the nobility in that? There is no future in such sad musings.

GM: The letters are effete. They are the lispings of a homosexual. Who would buy such pitiable stock?

Studebaker: The word boldly states “grace under pressure.” A company with such a name can be destroyed but not defeated. Buy and hold dearly.

Disney: A man cannot face himself if his portfolio contains cartoons. This Walt, with his pencil-thin mustache, is no real man. Divest.

Zenith: I awoke to find myself next to a television. It was a wondrous thing, a good thing. It promised more than I could hope for. I made Zenith mine. You must do the same.


To: e. e. (?) cummings

From: Acme Advertising Agency

Thank you for sending your sample product slogans to us for review. You have a unique style; however, it does not fit our print media needs at this time.

The Editors

it’s spring when the world is puddle-wonderful

so too is downy freshener



a)s w(e loo)k


th(e) new SELECTRIC

f(ro)m i-b-m

anyone lived in a pretty how town

thanks to century 21

you shall above all things be glad and young

the cream nivea your face will wear

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

thank you coffee god for this amazing

maxwell house


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