(An attempt to crack the "Shouts and Murmurs" page at The New Yorker...)


Do not let the lone name on the byline mislead you. A 500-word last-page essay is a crazy-quilt of creativity - a solitary effort only in the same way that fixing oneself an omelet is a solitary effort. There are hens, farmers, and egg commissions to thank.

Work on this piece began in 1996. I was then an employee of The PakRite Folding Box and Pulp Tray Company, a dynamic institution where my colleagues recognized that creativity can flourish only in a crucible of rigorous isolation and frank discourse. Special praise is due to Naomi Guitterez-Twomey, who always made sure I was free to pursue this project on my lunch hour by never inviting me to Munsey's Pie Hut along with the rest of the gang, and to "Mean" Eugene Fleener, whose fiery encouragement never failed to keep my spirits high on those inevitable occasions when my enthusiasm for this project began to wane.

In the fall of 1998, I had the good fortune to receive a fellowship from the Elsa M. Ragdale (with additional sponsorship from Absolut Vodka) Colony for the Magazine Arts. In an era when charticles and shiny-expensive-thing reviews have made it all but impossible for the writer of short literary filler to eke out a living, such gracious patronage was indispensable. They poured, I drank. In addition, I wish to specifically recognize the incisive commentary of Dr. Gary "Gary" Rehobeth, executive director of the Colony. Without his tireless interest and advice, "Acknowledgements" would have been a substantially different piece of work: shorter probably, and possibly about cosmetic surgery for cats.

The eager reference staff at the Hagley Library in Madison, Wisconsin also went beyond the call of duty. Volunteer shelvers Herb Breindes, Phyliss del Mondo, and Roz Zucker helped keep things neat and orderly, and Superintendent of Documents Everett Baxandall introduced me to several rich sources of adverbs. I must also mention Afternoon Story-Time Reader Debbie McDonald; her enthusiastic renditions of childhood classics like Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile helped make the serious business of scholarship a pleasurable one as well.

Much of the work that goes into a casual does not happen while sitting at a desk with pen in hand or keyboard at the ready, even if the author sometimes is too stubborn to recognize this. In this regard, I give thanks to my dear friends Alice Jones, Shelby Jay Wilson, Leslie Wilson, Samuel L. Strasser, Louis Gibelhaus, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Bernard Levy-Leboyer, Mira Pope, and Mary Ellen Swick. They carried me away when I claimed I needed to keep typing, and replenished my spirit with excellent food and drink, sparkling conversation, and some raucous syncronized quilting sessions.

Throughout four long years of research, writing, and revision, my family, or more specifically, my ficus plant Gerald, offered unfailing support. With his usual sharp and literate eye, he eagerly dispensed the sort of astute analysis that one can only hope to return in kind one day. Gerald, your counsel and confidence are what gave these words wings: your conviction was my conviction.

A final note. While many people deserve credit for whatever merits this work possesses, only one person can take responsibility for its shortcomings: Leonard Tedlow. For many months, Leonard repeatedly promised to read "Acknowledgements," but somehow he never quite got around to it, even though he apparently had plenty of time to create "The Web's Most Comprehensive 'Joanie Loves Chachi' Tribute Site." Leonard, thanks for nothing.

-- G. Beato

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