McCalling: A Bluff
The following appeared on Suck on November 5, 1998.
Let's face it: Suck has always been the online equivalent of The New Yorker: erudite, self-regarding, compulsively star-humping, appealing to just about anybody except that legendary cadre of little old ladies in Dubuque. Yet somehow, while the besieged behemoth of 43rd Street continues to generate buzz and career-making book deals, we remain typecast as the Tim Kazurinskys of the Web, preening to be noticed by a publishing elite that considers us about as noteworthy as Zwieback. If Tuesday's Suck daily had some of the delightfully droll qualities of a Shouts and Murmurs piece from The New Yorker, that's because it spent a few days in the legendary magazine's editorial loop before we hijacked it for our own modest purposes. The deep-cover Suckster who penned the piece has produced volumes of Tilly-worthy prose over the years but had never collected anything from The New Yorker except Xerox-generated rejection letters. That is until last week, when our anonymous scribe crashed the glass ceiling by submitting an article under the alias of one of the magazine's superstar writers. Sure enough, we can now close the book on everyone's worst suspicion about the New York publishing scene: It's the byline, stupid. When the piece was sent to The New Yorker's clunky new email system under the alias firstname.lastname@example.org, it received not the usual terse and tardy thanks-but-no-thanks but a speedy, gushing acceptance from Shouts and Murmurs editor Susan Morrison. (An invitation to lunch with Steve Martin only served to gild the lily.) We were tempted to shepherd this prank through to publication, if only to observe whether the real Bruce McCall would notice the unfamiliar article or merely accept the extra paycheck as a bonus for years of yeoman service. But with the hoax complete, and The New Yorker's legal department on alert, the writer cut bait and made for a safe harbor. After all, such hi-jinks deserve neither to go unpublished nor unpunished. Of course, we're happy to have such stellar writing in our own pages, but we can't help feeling a little depressed at the degree to which a famous byline rates higher than the spew of words attached to it. It's just not fair that dustpans like Jon Stewart dine out at Cafe des Artistes on Si's dime, while Suck's eager-but-obscure commentary brigade appears doomed to a life of covering school board meetings for the local Green Leaf. But if stealing the identities of famous writers hasn't helped us sneak into The New Yorker's Augean stable of literary stallions, we remain hopeful that it might add some brio to our own humble rag.