“How did you find this magazine?”. A column written for McSweeney’s contest


How did you find this magazine?
by Luciano Pagano

After having passed the 150,000 hits on my blog I decided to write this story. Once I have started writing this story I wondered why. Why should a young and promising Italian writer under forty years have decided to compete with one of his stories to collaborate on a magazine overseas? I found an answer in the questionnaire that I have attached below.

How did you find this magazine?

A) A friend told you about the magazine.

Impossible.

The only two friends that I know that have read some of the stories present on this magazine were not present in my office when I read the link about this contest on Twitter. Because of my job I spend a lot of time behind a computer and yet I can not write the amount of writing that I would like. I read a lot more than I write, unlike most writers I know.
However only one of two friends who know the magazine, making a total of fifty percent of my friends, has an account on Twitter but this friend of mine can not write fluently in English.
This fact means that even if my friend who knows this magazine and that has a Twitter account he had read the announcement of this competition, it would not be able to suggest to take part in it. I would not wish this answer could be inferred that I have a few friends, because I have a facebook page that has over 1700 fans.
How can a writer who has almost two thousand fans on his personal page on facebook does not even have a friend?

B) You saw an advertisement of the magazine on television.

Impossible.

In the state where I live, Italy, the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television system has taken several years, at least five.
In recent years the small region where I live, better known as the “heel of Italy,” has not yet been reached by the terrestrial digital television system.
I own a satellite television system, but even on this type of system, tuning into the channels of the United States of America, I was able to follow television programs in which the magazine is advertised. Besides, I’m not used to watching much television. I work ten hours during the day and during this time I am aware of losing the best part of television programming. For example, I can never see the programs that are broadcast at noon, where teams of chefs make the race to see who cooks the best dish. To compensate for the lack of television I usually legally download and store a large number of movies on my computer. But I do not have enough time to see all those movies. The only thing I can earn and consume without getting behind in the purchases were the books.

C) Someone told you about the magazine during a séance.

Impossible.

A longtime friend, one day, he invited me into his home. For many years he had a problem to solve and did not know how. Without asking my friend what was the nature of the problem I joined him at his home on the day that we set to meet. The problem was simple: her grandmother before she died had promised that once arrived in the Kingdom of Heaven would appear in a dream to give him lottery numbers. In Italy we are very superstitious, everyone plays the lottery, several times during the week, at least three more times in the month, at least ten. Many young writers are frequent lottery players. The dedication of the Italians for the lottery is so morbid that anyone who comes to live in Italy, even if it comes from a distant country like China, it is immediately infected with this passion for the game.

You have to imagine that yesterday when I went to bet a dollar on my favorite lottery, before me, in the same betting center, a clerk in a china shop was pointing couple of hundred dollars on the same lottery. On the same numbers that I was betting. Despite the system of the lottery wants to make me believe that the clerk had two hundred times more likely to win than for me, I prefer to think that the chances of becoming a millionaire, for both was the same. If my friend wins the lottery for example, would finally be able to buy a restaurant and fulfill the dream of his life. In that restaurant could take a young writer as a waiter.

Finally I arrived at my friend’s house. Despite his grandmother had died a few years the old lady still had not appeared in a dream to my friend. The times in which the woman had appeared in a dream to my friend, had not communicated any number. My friend was frustrated. My friend convinced me to join him at his home, where he, along with a specialist in spiritualism, had organized a seance. When I entered the room where the seance was held, I felt a little embarrassed because among the people present there was my ex-girlfriend. “You just sit there, outside the circle,” said my friend, “take note of all the numbers that are mentioned during the session.” A daunting task. What happened is unbelievable. Indeed, during the seance, the spirit of my grandma’s friend is materialized in the room. The old woman had a large book in his hands. It was not a copy of the magazine. The spirit began to read aloud the numbers of the pages of the book. My friend was excited, finally would have bet on the numbers that he had heard from the spirit of his grandmother and became rich. However my friend before the seance had forgotten to tell me that his grandmother was Belarusian. I never studied in Belarus. I know the French, English, I speak German and understand Spanish. Nothing to do with Belarus. The impression I had was that the spirit of the grandmother said, twice the number 12. Unfortunately I was not able to understand all the other numbers.

D) You have received a brochure of the magazine in your mailbox.

Impossible.

I know that the magazine does not send mail at home, unless it is an issue of the magazine purchased with a regular subscription. Most of my mail is usually delivered can be divided into two categories. The first category includes the weekly letters that my girlfriend receives from the cosmetics shop in the mall. In those letters are proposed to my girlfriend big rebates on all products. Products that cost up to twenty euros the previous week are offered at twenty cents. Every time my girlfriend searches inside the mailbox and recognizes one of the letters of the cosmetics shop his eyes shine with a bright light, a light that does not happen to see me often and I remember the light that was in his eyes in the days of the first week we met.
All other letters are delivered to my house, that is the letters that belong to the second category, are payment notices or notices of payment due.

E) the Internet.

Probably yes.

The Internet is the source of knowledge for an increasingly large amount of people who know nothing, or who know little, or who would like to know everything. I admit that one of the most direct ways in which I was able to read the contents of the magazine was read the stories present on the website of the magazine. I am also a follower of the internet profile of the journal found on Twitter and then, during a summer night, I read about this contest.

At this point, after having explained how I came to the attention of the magazine, it is necessary for me to describe what happened today.

During the afternoon I and a friend of mine had an important business meeting. Me and my colleague have founded a company that deals with facilitating the exchange of news and information between large companies and the public. What we needed after a year of activity, it was a good contact with new companies. After several studies we finally managed to get a good contact with an important man that we would receive and that we could address to other companies just as important. We were both received by the director of a company in which we have made an interesting business proposition.

In our country, Italy, you are considered a young author until you reach the age of fifty years. Similarly, you are considered a young entrepreneur when you have not yet reached the same age. Italy is not a country for young people. Whatever you do in the field of industry and art in our country, if you have less than fifty years, you’re still a young man.
This argument works with everything except that with the crimes. If you kill someone and you have thirty years in the newspaper the next morning it will write: “The murderess is a man of thirty years”. However, if you are the victim, that is, if you have been killed and you have thirty years in the newspaper the morning after the title will be “murdered a boy of thirty years.” So in our country, if you’ve just passed the fifty years, from one day to the other, you come suddenly considered a captain of industry. Even without industry. It is as if maturity comes into your life without notice, and you wake up one morning and you’re old. You’ve just graduated, you got your first job, you’ve married and had two children. You’ve
finally bought a decent car, a house and boom! Fifty years you’re a captain!
In the meeting of work me and my friend had to convince the entrepreneur that we would have received that was worth investing the money on our own ideas. Most guys our age, instead of running this business risk, with the summer temperature of forty degrees there in the office, they would rather go to the beach to sunbathe.
After an hour spent talking business, the entrepreneur at one point he turned to the window and spoke these words: “You two, I like you, you look like two good fellows, we will do great business together!”

After the meeting I went home and started thinking about “everything”.
The choices I made in life are right? Why I decided that I would never teach in a school despite my degree with honors in philosophy? Why I left my last job and I preferred to stay in this city with my girlfriend and my dog rather than moving to a new city and earn more money, to live without a dog without a girlfriend?
Every time that my life has reached a point where I feel that you can not go without changing anything important in me then I stop and think “everything”.
On the radio today I happened to hear the words of our Prime Minister in a telephone would have said about these words “I’d go out of this shitty country.”

I love this country. And I love writing. That’s why I decided that despite all the African heat, where I spent the month of August would be useful to stay at home to write this story. I wrote this story for the good of my country. Every writer should always have great objectives in front of him. I asked for a hint to my dog, I always ask for a hint to my dog before embarking on something new. My dog’s name is Siro and is a bit ‘as if it were my I-Ching staff. My dog is a cross between a jack russell and another. I say that my dog is a cross instead of white because it is brindle. When my dog was born on google I sought help in the search field enter “jack russell tiggered” to see if it came out a few pictures belonging to a dog like mine. No response. So I asked my dog if he thought I’d better write a story for the magazine. If the dog had been standing since it meant that I would have done well. If my dog was gone, then I would have stripped and instead of writing I had a shower. The heat was unbearable. “I must write this story?”. My dog remained motionless. “Are you sure, I have to write this story?”. My dog stood still again. “I have to write even if I never wrote anything for this magazine, even though I’m Italian, even if our prime minister suggests implicitly to all the inhabitants of our country to escape?”. The dog remained motionless and barked. If the dog barked means that he wanted to give some strength to his suggestions. The suggestion was: “Write idiot.”
So I turned on the computer and started writing.

[Pubblico qui il racconto "How did you find this magazine?" con cui ho partecipato al Column Contest indetto dalla rivista McSweeney's. Per la traduzione ringrazio Mr Thanks]

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