On Monday, Rachel Shukert blogged on Mad Men, Lenny Bruce style. Below is her satirical short fiction response to some particularly egregious comments she received after an excerpt from her book was published on Salon.com.
Last week, a certain high-traffic website posted an excerpt from my new book, Everything Is Going To Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say it had to do with my experience in Vienna and all its attendant Nazi ghosts, literal and figurative.
The anonymous posters in the comments thread were outraged. Some accused me of being an undercover Zionist agent. Others suggested that the Powers that Be (TPTB in Internet speak) had commissioned and planned the release of my book in a transparent attempt to drum up sympathy for the Jews just when the world was beginning to get wise to their inherent evil. One went so far as to deem my book–a mildly amusing travelogue about getting drunk and doing stupid things–as instrumental in conning the American public into invading Iran. Several commenters, to be fair, simply said my piece was the worst and least believable thing they had ever read. Clearly, I was a liar who had made the whole story up. What about the beautiful city of Vienna would possibly make anyone think of Nazis?
Well, my fellow Jews (and any Gentiles who may have found themselves on this blog), I guess the jig is up. After much soul-searching, I have decided to come clean, here to the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning, about the motivation and purpose of my book.
About two years ago, I was flossing my teeth and watching Season 4 Top Chef on DVR when the phone rang. It was Chuck Schumer, then acting President of the Elders of Zion, before leadership passed over to Diane von Furstenberg last spring. (In case you didn’t know, the E of Z presidency passes over in turn to leading Jews from every field, the way leadership of the E.U. passes from country to country. Judd Apatow is next on the docket.)
“Rachel, it’s Chuck,” said the distinguished gentleman from New York. “We’ve got a job for you.”
“Oh no,” I said. “You still haven’t paid me for the work I did personally evicting those 400 Palestinian orphans from their homes in order to make way for Wolf Blitzer’s sodomitical pleasure palace.”
“You never invoiced us,” said Schumer.
“I never invoiced you before,” I countered.
“Blankfein’s getting really strict about that stuff now,” said Schumer. “The major economic recession we’ve been orchestrating in order to consolidate our own power and wealth at the expense of the American worker is about to come to fruition, and we’ll be under scrutiny from all sides. But let me talk to him. If nothing else, we’ll get you some nice stock options from Goldman Sachs. You’ll be very happy.”
“I better be,” I said, “Or I just may go to the Internet forums.”
“There’s no need for that kind of talk, young lady,” snapped Schumer. “Besides, what else are you going to do? I saw your mother at the Zionist Cabal/Casino Night at the JCC in Cherry Hill the other night, and she told me you didn’t have a job right now.”
My mother. Of course she’d been talking to Schumer. It was all make sense. I sighed. “What do you want me to do?”
Schumer favored me with a smug chuckle. “I thought you’d never ask.”
“Well, I’m asking.”
He chuckled again. “So you are. So you are. Well, here it is, in a nutshell. Like I said, we’ve got big plans for the next few years. The recession is coming, and believe me, it’s going to be a doozy. We’ve set up a system that will methodically drain the wealth out of the entire world and into the Elders’ coffers for years to come. Those Real Americans aren’t going to know what hit them. But obviously, this might come with a backlash that could make other parts of our program more difficult; our Transjordanian expansion, for example, or our planned invasion of Iran.”
“I don’t understand the Iran thing,” I said. “Why do we want to do that again?”
Schumer sighed impatiently. “Honestly, Rachel,” he said, “Sometimes I don’t think you even read our newsletters. We’re telling everyone it has to do with Israel’s security. But really, it has to do with oil, and mostly with the fact that we are a malignant race bent on spreading evil and destruction wherever we go.”
“Oh, right,” I said. On the TV, Padma Lakshmi was solemnly intoning the failings of the dishes of Spike and Dale.
“Are you watching Top Chef?” Schumer said angrily. “Stephanie’s going to win the whole thing. Put it on mute.” I obeyed. “Now,” Schumer continued, satisfied, “once this all happens, we’re going to have to drum up some fresh sympathy. Remind people of all the horrible things that have happened to us–if deservedly–over the years. We want you to write a book.”
“Why me? Why not Roth?”
“Roth’s a loose cannon. You never know when he’s going to get all guilty and heavy-handed and start saying everything’s all our fault. Besides, Roth’s getting up there. He’s not going to be around forever, no matter how many swims he takes in that farshtinkener lake of his.”
“Ask his successor then,” I said. “Ask Shteyngart.”
“We thought of Shetyngart,” Schumer said thoughtfully. “We love Shteyngart, and he sure as hell owes us one. But don’t forget, Shteyngart’s a former Soviet. He sticks out. He can’t operate from the inside out, like a third-generation American like you.”
“Fourth,” I said proudly.
“Third,” Schumer insisted, “And frankly, that’s generous. Also, no offense to you or Shteyngart, but we’re looking for someone a little easier on the eyes. 2010, when your book would be released, is going to be the year of the Young Female Memoirist. We’ve got a few lined up already–Klausner, Gould–but they don’t have your paranoia, your persecution complex. You’re the only woman for the job.”
I sighed again, the sigh of eternity. “What am I supposed to write about?”
“Well,” said Schumer. “Your mother tells me you spent quite a bit of time in Europe. Why don’t you write about that? Talk about Vienna. The ghosts of the past, all that jazz. Play up the anti-Semitism angle; not too much, but enough to let everyone know: WE HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN AND WE’RE STILL PISSED OFF.”
“But Chuck,” I said, with utmost sincerity, “I literally did not think about the Holocaust once while I was in Vienna. What could have possibly made me think of that? Certainly not the posters of Jorg Haider everywhere, or hearing people say terrible things about the Turks, or the fact that right before I went there I had been staying with my aunt who fled that beautiful and tolerant city as a 5-year-old in 1938? I mean, honestly, I had so many better things to focus on, like Mozart and Schiele and really fancy cake. It never even occurred to me to remember I was in a country which had managed to kill over 90% of its Jewish population comfortably within living memory.”
“So make something up,” said Schumer. “Like Anne Frank did. We got mileage out of that for forty years, and let me tell you something, she did pretty well out of it too. I’m going down to see her at her compound in Boca next week.”
“Give her my best.”
“You’re not going to regret this,” said Schumer. “But remember: we’re only getting you a book deal because you’re a 20-something girl, not because you’re a good writer or have anything to say. So don’t go getting fat and ugly on us, or we’ll find some other self-obsessed, urban, overprivileged Jewish slut to do our nefarious bidding, you understand?”
“Yes,” I said, “although by the time the book comes out, I won’t be a 20-something anymore.”
“I didn’t hear that,” said Chuck Schumer. “Now get writing.”
So that’s what I did. I concocted a wild and totally false story about how being in Vienna reminded me, even in passing, of certain aspects of World War II. I invented a relationship with an older man whose father may or may not have been a member of the Nazi party, if not the Gestapo, which everyone knows is impossible because someone born in 1957 as the youngest child of a large family couldn’t possibly have had a male parent born in say, 1917 or so. (Not that I ever claim this is the case in the book, only that it crossed my paranoid, persecution-complected, plotting Jewish mind.)
I also invented a positively ludicrous story about seeing a yellow Star of David in the flea market, which is impossible because a) such a thing never existed, b) could never have turned up in such a place and c) if it did, it must have been a fake or a film prop that I would have immediately recognized as such, and that any subsequent mental anguish suffered on my part was simply part of a written campaign to rationalize the inexcusable actions of the thuggish Zionist entity and fan the flames for our upcoming War on the Universe.
And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you snooping anonymous Internet commenters.
Rachel Shukert‘s second memoir, Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour, is now available. Check back on Friday to read her final post for the Visiting Scribe.