Everyone knows it’s hard to find a job these days. As of last month, one out of every dozen Americans was unemployed. And finding paid work in publishing—where every English major who’s read Moby-Dick thinks he deserves a job editing Martin Amis and sipping scotch all day—is about nine million times harder than getting some shitty job at Duane Reade.
So maybe the tone of this internship notice at the well-esteemed independent book publisher Dalkey Archive Press is totally justified. Don’t you, aspiring young literary buck, want to work with the publishing house that puts out novels by avant-garde auteurs like Damion Searls and Joshua Cohen? Yes, you do. And because no one else will hire you, then maybe it won’t be so bad to work as the assistant to Dalkey Archive publisher, John O’Brien, where one of your primary job duties will be to “know what the Publisher needs or wants before he does”? (Sic, regarding the capitalization of Publisher.) Really, given today’s tough job climate, you can’t afford not to apply. Here are more details:
The Press is looking for promising candidates with an appropriate background who…are determined to have a career in publishing and will sacrifice to make that career happen…. possess multi-dimensional skills that will be applied to work at the Press; look forward to undergoing a rigorous and challenging probationary period either as an intern or employee; want to work at Dalkey Archive Press doing whatever is required of them to make the Press succeed; do not have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press (family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc.); know how to act and behave in a professional office environment with high standards of performance; and who have a commitment to excellence that can be demonstrated on a day-to-day basis. DO NOT APPLY IF ALL OF THE ABOVE DOES NOT DESCRIBE YOU.
It’s not really clear from the letter whether or not “successful candidates” will ever be paid in anything other than the insults that will inevitably result when you’re caught using Gchat during work hours…though if you kick ass and "sacrifice" during your “rigorous and challenging probationary period either as an intern or employee,” maybe, someday, you’ll get paid.
But watch your step, lowly literary striver, lest you fuck up your probation! The letter continues:
Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.
In fact, the offer is so appealing that applications are already pouring in. For your pleasure, we present to you the Gimp from Pulp Fiction’s cover letter, which novelist and author of the story collection Ryan Seacrest Is Famous, David Housley, has so kindly brought to our attention (and published on his own personal blog, too, which you can find here).
To: John O’ Brien
Dear Mr. O’Brien,
I recently came upon your notice for unpaid interns and I believe my experience and skills are an excellent match for your requirements.
For the last several years, I have been employed as a gimp in a box in the basement of Zed's Pawn Shop in Canoga Park, Los Angeles. I am tethered. I sleep in a four by two foot storage locker. In all my years in this position (and I do hope you’ll excuse my vagueness on details, which is a necessary condition of my current employment) I have never once been late for work. Nor have I left early. I have worked literally every weekend and evening since the very first night of my enslavement. My goals, while admittedly modest, have each been achieved, each and every day: I have remained silent, obedient, imprisoned.
While some may argue that the particulars of my work uniform and the very complete nature of my containment contributed to these next achievements, I am quite proud to report that I have never, once, in my entire time at Zed’s Pawn Shop, taken personal phone calls during work hours, gossiped, misused company property, submitted poorly written materials, created an atmosphere of complaint or argument, or failed to respond to emails in a timely way.
While your job description quite eloquently outlines the optimal terms of the intern/master relationship, my experience has molded my work style in some peculiar ways that I feel will lend themselves quite nicely to employment at the Dalkey Archive. I am silent. Let me repeat that: I am silent. I do not mean that, like some short fiction writer fresh out of the Iowa Writers Workshop, I speak only when spoken to. I do not mean that, like a child worker in a Chinese sneaker factory, I am conditioned to subservience. I mean that I am completely, totally silent: the only sound I make is the soft squish-squash of my leather suit as I am ushered from one cage to another.
The nature of my current employment has led me to some workplace predilections that I believe will translate well to work at the Dalkey Archive. I prefer to work with a rubber ball lodged in my mouth. I prefer to be led from place to place with a leash of some sort. I prefer that my sleeping quarters be extremely cramped, locked from the outside, and that the only key-holders be my immediate supervisors.
While I must admit that I do not have any experience in publishing of any kind, I am a careful reader, and as such have noticed that only one tenth of your job description is given over to publishing-related duties, while roughly half of the remainder describes various ways in which the person chosen for this position is expected to remain subservient and available at all times. Were my previous employers, Mr. Zed and Mr. Maynard, available to serve as references, I am quite confident that they would confirm my abilities in these areas.
In closing, a personal note: over the past several years, I have come to not only tolerate, but indeed to love the terms of my captivity. Like so many of the writers no doubt published by your fine organization, I find that limitations are not only right and good, but freeing. Within the confines of my storage locker, I have found my life’s work. Dare I say, Mr. O’Brien: I have found myself. Some might call the terms of my employment medieval, subhuman even. I say that my employers are truly enlightened. That, like you, they understand the true nature of employment, of internship, of work and life itself. Simply put, Mr. O’Brien, my employers have taught me what a job is.
I sit here, in my box, chained to a cage, most ready and willing to take this knowledge and apply it to my position as vaguely unpaid intern for an undetermined amount of time with only the slightest glimmer of possibility for advancement, at the Dalkey Archive.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Your humble (soon to be) servant,