My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthoodby Joe Queenan
Years upon years of being unspeakably nasty to icons as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, and even Mother Nature herself had taken its toll on Joe Queenan. The man all editors turned to when they needed a book, film, or tv program savaged was tired of being so mean. He wanted to be more like Susan Sarandon. Or Sting. Determined to mend his ways, Queenan… See more details below
Years upon years of being unspeakably nasty to icons as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, and even Mother Nature herself had taken its toll on Joe Queenan. The man all editors turned to when they needed a book, film, or tv program savaged was tired of being so mean. He wanted to be more like Susan Sarandon. Or Sting. Determined to mend his ways, Queenan embarked on the most difficult task of his career: he decided to become a nice person. Now available in paperback, My Goodness is the side-splitting result of Queenans attempted transformation: from his use of animal-friendly Body Shop goods to his letter of apology to Jackie Collins after a scathing review of her latest book; from his quest to save the whales to his quest to save Linda Tripages.
The New York Times Book Review
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Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter Eight
It all started while I was going through my junk mail one morning. Because I had spent so much time writing for right-wing publications before I decided to become a good person, I was on every conservative mailing list in the country. This meant that I always had lots of kindling lying around the house waiting to be tossed into the fire. Here was a letter from the Manhattan Institute inviting me to attend a lecture by some think tank zealot who wanted to cut taxes. Right into the flames with that bad boy! Here was a communiqué from the Cato Institute asking for a handout. Straight into the fireplace! Here was an invitation to subscribe to the Moonie-owned Washington Times. Satan, get thee hence! And here was a letter from Bill Bennett requesting that I become a charter subscriber to a "conservative-oriented, idea-driven publishing house to bring back serious books about culture, politics, public affairs, and history to Amer! ! ica's bookshelves!" This from an intellectual freeloader most famous for compiling an anthology of great writing by dead people who wouldn't have been caught, well, dead with a cultural second-story man like Bill Bennett if they were still alive. Screw you, loser.
But one night as I was poised to shred a rather voluminous letter from the Linda Tripp Legal Defense Fund, it occurred to me that my newfound antipathy toward conservative causes rested on tenuous moral underpinnings. Obviously, almost all the good things that came about in this society were the results of efforts by stupendously virtuous, left-leaning people such as Sting, Jackson, Tom of Maine, and his wife, the gifted poetess Kate of Maine. But if I was truly committed to a philosophy of practicing RAKs and SABs, wouldn't the law of averages eventually lead me to do something nice for a Republican? I mean, wasn't randomness essentially, random? Besides, when I read through the scriptures, I found no evidence t! ! hat Jesus limited his munificence to one class or one ethnic group or one political party. Basically, He seemed to get along with just about everybody.
With this in mind, I decided that it was time to do something randomly, senselessly beautiful for Linda Tripp. Although I, like just about everyone else I knew, felt that she was a duplicitous hydra, a snake in the grass, a vile toad, she was still in a very real sense a human being. I tried to remember this as I plowed through her twelve-page pitch letter, hoping to dream up something randomly kind I could do for her. No, I was not going to send her a check to help cover her legal costs; if she hadn't taped those conversations and then been such a blabbermouth about it, she wouldn't have found herself in such a bind. But maybe there was some other way I could lend a hand. Searching for inspiration, I reread the letter. Well, as you can imagine, it was mostly boilerplate material--"I'm told you are a fair person...I stand t! ! o lose everything...They have me in their crosshairs...I feel like David up against Goliath...My children and I have our backs to the wall..." But then on page 9 I read the words, "I'm living in fear for my job and for the safety of my family and myself. The little things I always took for granted, like going to the grocery store or the gas station in privacy, seem to be gone forever."
Immediately I ran out, did what had to be done, then came back, sat down at my word processor, and wrote Ms. Tripp the following letter:
Dear Ms. Tripp:
I recently received your letter in the mail. You are correct in your assumption that I am "a fair person." And being a fair person, I do not believe for a moment that you are either a liar or a felon. This being the case, I do not think that you should be prosecuted or incarcerated for your actions. However, I do believe that secretly taping a friend's conversations is an unforgivable action--unless someone like the hea! ! d of the Gambino Family was involved--so you have brought a lot of this misfortune on yourself.
Being a kind and generous person, I know how difficult it must be for you to shop for groceries in privacy. With this in mind, I have done some grocery shopping for you. Please find enclosed a box of Health Valley organic blueberry tarts, a package of Newman's Own organic pretzels, a box of Kavli crispbread, a bag of St. John's wort tortilla chips, a container of Chai decaffeinated organic tea, a package of St. John's wort tea, and some organic Cajun jerky. I know I have loaded up on the St. John's wort products, but the tone of your letter made it sound like you were a little bit down. St. John's wort is an ancient natural remedy that is thought to be very effective in the treatment of depression.
By the way, do you like coffee? If you do, please let me know, and I will call the folks at Kalani Organica and get them to send you some shade-grown coffee. I don't know if shade! ! -grown coffee actually existed when your legal travails began, but purchasing this ecologically nurturing beverage prevents bird habitats from being destroyed and also vastly reduces pollution of our rivers, and I think everybody should try it. So let me know. Or, if you prefer organic tea, I can have some of it shipped out.
Best of luck in all your endeavors,
P.S. I am also sending along some cents-off coupons from Tom's of Maine. Be well.
Then I sidled down the street and shipped this organic care package off in the mail. I rewarded myself for performing the most random RAK of my entire life by eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which I got for free by cashing in one of the coupons that my socially conscious long-distance telephone company sent me every month. Yes, I felt pretty good about myself, pretty up, pretty up, pretty up, up and away, as the righteous babe Ani DiFranco might have put it. The only thing missing?! ! I really wished that Ben & Jerry's had a St. John's wort flavor, so I could have sent some of that, freeze-dried, to Linda Tripp, as well. But you can't have everything.
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