February 10th, 2011 | Uncategorized

MAGAZINE | The end of the world, in 20 words or less

Wednesday, in the Yale Daily News boardroom, John Tierney ’75 regaled current “zeenies,” — as apparently he and his fellow editors, Christopher Buckley ’75 and Eric Goodman ’75, used to call their Magazine staff in 1974 — with stories from the early days of the Yale Daily News Magazine.

He told us, for example, of the Magazine’s second anniversary issue, in which the editors hoped to feature “Apocalyptic visions” from “the best and the brightest modern minds.” But strapped for money, they couldn’t afford to pay these writers a dollar a word — the going rate at the time — for full-length original works. Their solution? Pay the going rate, but limit each “vision” solicited to 20 words. As the editors noted in that 12th issue of the Magazine, “The writers that exceeded twenty words did so out of a love for their craft.”

Over the next few days, we will reprint the resulting works of these acclaimed authors, ranging from Ayn Rand to Joyce Carol Oates. For the first time since its original publication on April 12, 1974, we present “The End of the World, In 20 Words or Less”:

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Gentlemen:

I think the world invincible. No charge.

Sincerely,

John Cheever

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Dear Mr. Tierney,

The world isn’t really going to end. It just enjoys all the doctor’s little house calls. Please send this message and the unearned portion of my fee to William Styron, the Connecticut novelist, to help cheer him up.

Yours,

Tom Wolfe

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Fin du Monde

Mankind undoubtedly represents to the universe something in the nature of a relatively harmless but annoyingly intractable disease, like a mild case of eczema. The extinction of humanity, when it inevitably comes, will be about as important in the grand scheme of things as the removal from some nether part of the cosmos of a small, persistent but forgettable itch.

Best wishes,

William Styron

P.S. Don’t send cash by mail, S.V.P. would prefer check

  • CSRealist

    Very nice.

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