Kerry's challenge today for the writers' group Imaginary Garden with Real Toads is an epistle challenge. An epistle, in its original meaning, is a letter.
Kerry has asked us to think of writers and characters in literature and then to take "into account the voice of the writer and the identity of the receiver." And she continues: "All the rest is poetry." Ah, Kerry my girl, you don't know me very well yet!
Unable to follow instructions to the letter, I admit I have written neither a poem in letter form, nor a letter in poem form. I happen to be reading a book written by American newspaperman and author, the controversial and not always beloved Jimmy Breslin, about the life of another American newspaperman whose columns became books and whose books became radio shows and movies: the popular and long-remembered Damon Runyon.
These two men most likely never met, as Breslin would have been 16 when Runyon died of cancer in 1946, but I've written a letter to Breslin in an approximation of Runyon's style. It is neither literature nor poetry, but I have tried to reflect, as best I can, two twentieth century American writers whose books I have enjoyed, so my submission does take into account the voice of the writer and the identity of the receiver.
First, a quotation from each of the two men:
I busted out of the place in a hurry and went to a saloon and drank beer and said that for the rest of my life I'd never take a job in a place where you couldn't throw cigarette butts on the floor. I was hooked on this writing for newspapers and magazines.
*Always try to rub against money, for if you rub against money long enough, some of it may rub off on you.
in A Very Honorable Guy
Herewith, then, the epistle, as I imagine Mr. Runyon might have written it to Mr. Breslin, had they been born at compatible times in newspaper history.
Dear Mr. Breslin:
Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Damon Runyon, at least that is the name under which I write if not precisely the name under which I was born, and I am by way of being a newspaperman in this man’s town.
I am standing on the corner of Broadway and 47th Street and thinking thusly: I am in need of a new legman because my former legmen, namely Mr. Ed Sullivan and Mr. Walter Winchell, seem both to have somehow found new employment in different lines of work.
I am not in a position to pay you much money, especially as you are a very young and very inexperienced legman, but am in a position to introduce you to some of the more interesting characters on Broadway: among them Mr. Dave the Dude in particular, and Mr. Nicely Nicely who isn’t particular at all.
The position of legman may not be familiar to you as you do not seem to have done much in the way of newspaper writing due to your extreme youth, but I understand you have legs and are willing to use them.
If you are interested in beginning a career as a newspaperman, please write to me at the address below.
Yours most sincerely,
A. Damon Runyon
New York, New York