It seems I have been on a reading slump for the last week between finishing Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith (not a bad book, but not the right time for me) and it is commencing with being a bit over halfway done (thank god) with Letters to Wendy’s by Joe Wenderoth published by Verse Press.
Background: in my last year of college a writing professor recommended this book because of it’s peculiar nature. Basically, Wenderoth eats at a Wendy’s just about every day between July 1st 1996 and August 7th 1997 and writes a comment card everyday to send to Wendy’s corporate office. Hence, the book is a collection of prose poetry (insert snark) that is just the comment cards he sent in that time frame to corporate. The format does sound interesting and everyone recognizes Wendy’s, hence it seemed like it would be incredibly entertaining at the very least. It is not.
I would think if one is writing in the same consistent format everyday they would build a trajectory of what their life looks like and how it is evolving. Or, given the subject matter, a bit of contemplation put into the fast food industry or minimum-wage workers or seeing how the space changes, or doesn’t change, over time contrasted with individual life changes, because life is always changing, or something like that…
This book is doing absolutely none of that. Frankly, I got halfway through the book because I found a single comment card that I thought “Wow, what an interesting thought.” Here that is:
November 14th, 1996
Today the restaurant was filled with warmth, a spirit of caring. The food was just right and the service was prompt. For the first time this season, snow began to fall. Parents laughed with their children. Handsome employees made witty–but not inconsiderate–remarks. Retired couples were given Extra Value coupons. I felt like getting fucked up and watching t.v. forever.
See, interesting thought! The warmth of Wendy’s, a tidy scene being built out of short sentences and quick observations. Nothing mind-blowing, but interesting to see in a Wendy’s. That’s the first and last meaningful poem I have found.
The majority of the comment cards are just overwrought stream of consciousness babble that only serves two purposes: to show that the only trajectory of the book is the author’s depression (which he does not explore in any serious way) and a sexual freakishness that only exists to try to shock Wendy’s corporate and the subsequent reader.
Example of some gross excerpts:
January 19th, 1997
These fucking teeny-bopper cunts–they’ll steal your man as soon as they look at you… They’ll suck his dick real slow as though they’ve never sucked a dick before and they’ll say “It’s so big!” even if it isn’t.
January 26th, 1997
I want the first time to be special… That way, when I suck your pussy, ease four fingers up your lubricated asshole, pinch your nipples and drench you in cum, it will be really beautiful.
WHAT THE FUCK.
The only way I can see this sort of language being even mildly appropriate or powerful in any excusable context is if these were conversations the writer was overhearing at Wendy’s, but that is never indicated and the stream of gross content just continues and continues throughout the book, hence, it is truly HIS thoughts.
The irritant of this lies in the fact that (correct me if you believe I am wrong or can prove me wrong, I’m all ears) so many writers in the literature cannon are indeed males who thrive on feeling like they are so deep and alone in the world dreaming about fucking a faceless woman. And people like it! People expect it! People do think it is deep and moody when a man talks about fucking in half of a book because look at him he is just so DAMAGED! But women would A) NEVER get away with that with a predominately male audience B) Would get called out for ‘overcompensating’ or some equivalent degree of bullshit C) In my personal reading I rarely if ever find women writing about having sex with men in a truly faceless, objectifying way.
In college, in that last year I alluded to above, my very last writing workshop featured a guy I had known since my very first writing class brought in an essay he said he just ‘Decided to say fuck it and write.” It was about his porn addiction and how he VERBATIM VIA HIS OWN WORDS IN HIS ESSAY “Apologize to every girl that has sat next to me in class, borrowed a pen from, or spoken to because I have daydreamed about spanking your ass, licking your clit and fucking the shit out of you.”
In my 75% female class, this freaked out and disgusted everyone. But people still gave him FEEDBACK that was CONSTRUCTIVE. People recommended places to go with talking about porn addiction and movies to watch and yada yada yada, myself included, but it contributes directly to the reality that men write this kind of disgusting, objectifying shit all the fucking time and women are so used to it in literature that you just have to shrug it off.
No, you really SHOULDN’T shrug it off.
Writing is in itself a narcissistic exercise and the average male writer doesn’t have the experience or empathy with women to understand what objectification truly feels like. I have had friends in school have to confront peers’ sexism in their essays and it is never pretty, not because the man reacts badly but because he just doesn’t get it and truly cannot empathize.
My basic statement: this book is disgusting, pointless and a true waste of my time. However, I will finish it, and even though I zone out through 90% of the writing because it is so pointless and God-awful I will continue to finish it because maybe the 2nd half won’t be as trash as the first. Sorry about it.