A Letter to Myself on Sept. 9, 2012

Dear Dumbass:

This is you several months from now. I can’t tell you how you’ve acquired the ability to send letters through time, but since we’ve got a whole Keanu/Sandra Bullock The Lake House thing happening here, I suggest we stick with that theme of not thinking too hard.

My salutation should make it clear I’m not writing to wish you a happy 33rd birthday in advance of the big day tomorrow, and you of all people know I wouldn’t waste a time-traveling letter on such frivolity—especially considering what you’re about to do.

I can see I need to be more specific.

For weeks now, you’ve been telling anyone who would listen that starting Sept. 10, you’re going to read all of Mark Twain’s major works over the course of one year.

This is a terrible idea.

I know you think you’ve hedged your bets. You’ll recall that in its infancy, this idea was something much more ambitious, but thankfully, your Complete Works of William Shakespeare remains undisturbed on the shelf. Then you thought: “I write humor, Twain writes humor—I should read all of his books!”

(Note: You haven’t gotten more liberal with exclamation points in the future; I just threw that in to piss you off.)

However, a search for the complete Mark Twain catalogue quickly revealed that this, too, would be a non-starter due to sheer volume, leading you instead to commandeer the pared-down list of his major works set forth by the kind folks at The Mark Twain House & Museum. I’ve neither met nor corresponded with them, but if I had, I have to think they would share in my concern.

Please don’t take this as a knock on Twain. Even now, after securing this technology to cross space-time solely for the purpose of imploring you to pump the brakes, I can tell you reading him is proving to be a valuable and often quite enjoyable exercise. I mean, he refers to politicians as “dust-licking pimps.” How do you not love that? The man is considered the greatest American humorist for good reason.

But do you really need to say you’re going to read 14—yes, 14—in one year? You could have just picked Ulysses, read one book, and been hailed as a conquering hero at year’s end. The way things currently stand, you’ll spend the first three months of this experiment reading The Innocents Abroad and, when you finish, still have 13 books to go.

Your apparent delusion about your capacity to be intellectual is troubling to say the least. But perhaps more disconcerting is that you seem to have become something of a douche. Who walks around saying they’re going to read all of anything by anyone? Do you think it sounds impressive?

Because I’ll let you in on a little secret: No one has heard of like half of these books. A Tramp Abroad? Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc? The looks you’re going to be getting after sharing your progress will be less “Wow—that’s cool“ and more “Wow—let’s talk about Top Chef now.”

Thus, as your future self, being of sound mind and dutifully acquainted with your limitations as a reader, I do strongly recommend, nay demand, that you abandon this ill-conceived plan and go apologize to your DVR immediately for even entertaining it.

Now if the Bill & Ted franchises are to be trusted—and I think we can both agree, they are—as soon as I wrote the above, my present here in 2013 should have been altered, as long as I remember to send this letter when I’m done. And yet my copy of book No. 2, Roughing It—which you won’t get to until DECEMBER—hasn’t disappeared, nor has The Gilded Age magically undownloaded itself from my Kindle, confirming you’ve chosen to ignore my warning.

That’s right, you’re getting a Kindle for Christmas. I’m so not sorry I ruined that surprise.

Well, I guess this means I need to get back to my reading. Go ahead and live it up tonight, asshole; I know what’s waiting for you come tomorrow and every day after that.

Oh, and by the way: I just slept with your wife.

Sincerely,

2013 Ted Fox

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