Over the last two collections of short stories--Stray Decorum and Between Wrecks--I have been dealing with a character named Stet Looper who undergoes a low-residency master's degree program in southern culture studies. Between Wrecks ends with a ninety page novella titled "I Would Be Remiss," wherein Looper thanks everyone he knows, wishes to know, everything that aided him along the way while he finished his thesis, No Cover Available: The Story of Columbus Choice, African-American Sushi Chef from Tennessee. Because the two collections are linked in various ways, I am hopeful that readers will think, Oh yeah, now I remember why Stet needs to thank his ex-wife, who did indeed offer support up until she ran off to Minnesota. Along the way, too, I am hopeful that readers will understand Stet's struggles and triumphs in the cut-throat world of southern culture studies, and foresee his probable upcoming brace of unipolar disorders.
Over the years, of course, I have noticed that writers sometimes spend six or eight pages in the end matter of their books, thanking everyone from psychoanalysts to long-living tetras. Sure, there's the nod to spouse, agent, editor, maybe a typewriter- or computer-repair person. But lately I've noticed an influx of car mechanics, grocers, baristas, bartenders (I think I might have been guilty of that one), concealed weapon permit instructors, sherpas, antivenin manufacturers, et cetera. Still, it's not enough. I feel delinquent in having not offered my thanks and/or condolences to a number of acknowledgement-worthy citizens and non-entities, and am hopeful that, from this point forward, every other writer finds the time to hail the following, for it shall be fruitful and far-sighted:
1. Anyone who goes around stealing books from used bookstores, so that people must buy new books, so the writer gets his or her due royalties.
2. The writer's neighbor's husband or wife. Listen, if you write out, "I really need to thank INSERT NAME HERE for helping me out during those stressful days," then you won't have to worry about not having a conflict to write about for your next novel.
3. Trees. Thank the trees.
4. The hard-working men and women at various ink factories scattered around the world.
5. Amanda McKittrick Ros for her book Irene Iddesleigh, possibly the worst novel ever published, which will make the writer feel better when the lackluster reviews hit.
6. Every cigarette smoker in the United States, for that person pays a lot of taxes on a pack, and that money--I like to think--goes into road repair, so that FedEx or UPS drivers don't wreck when delivering boxes of books from distributor to bookstore. If everyone were as patriotic as smokers, and bought cartons weekly, there would be some smooth interstates in America.
7. The inventor of scratch cards, who may have lured the writer into losing a small fortune, which caused the writer to sit back down at the desk and get to work, finish his or her novel, get a big advance, then take that money right back down to the local convenience store for more scratch cards, lose a small fortune, sit back down at the desk to start a new work, and so on.
8. Rain, snow, sleet, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms. How many successful writers, per capita, live in San Diego? They must be agoraphobes, or else possess a will power on par with Nietzsche.
9. For Old School writers: those non-profits that try to entice people with packets of return address labels in hopes that the recipients will send in a check for fifty bucks in order to save wildlife or children. These labels save valuable time for a writer when he or she shoves mss. into manilla envelopes.
10. The agent's doorman. How cranky would the agent be if he or she had to open a door to the sidewalk?