Dan Myers's Reviews > Letters from a Nut

Letters from a Nut by Ted L. Nancy
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Jul 07, 09

Read in January, 2007

Have you read this book? If not, and you want a good clean laugh, I'd recommend it. I just randomly picked it out of the humor section at Borders last night and it turned out to be a real howl. You know you've got a funny book on your hands when your daughter, becoming slightly exasperated with all the laughing, suggests that maybe it would be best if you took a little break from the book and did something else for a while!

The book is a hilarious compilation of letters, purportedly written by the pseudonymic Mr. Nancy, directed to various companies requesting assistance, permissions, and information, and making suggestions, about the companies services and products. There is, for instance, a letter to Disney World Resorts requesting permission to bring Mr. Nancy's own personal ice machine to his hotel room when he visits Orlando. Each letter (well, almost all of them) are accompanied by the response from the poor sap in the company (or sometimes even the president of the company) assigned to respond.

The overall effect is hilarious, in part because all of the requests are off-the-wall, but more so because of the author's brilliant comedic style. He is, for example, a master of inserting irrelevant detail in the letters. For example, in a letter to the Golden Nugget inquiring about his mattress, he inserts, at a completely irrelevant point, that he will be arriving in a 61-year-old Buick. Does seem that funny to you? No? Well, that's just because I'm not ruining it for you by giving you the whole context. Read it yourself and weep--tears of laughter.

The author also somehow manages to convey an impeccable sense of comedic cadence in print--no doubt one of several reasons Jerry Seinfeld has been accused of being Ted L. himself.

The letters are also funny because they very accurately reflect that kind of almost-but-not-quite-insane prose one gets in inappropriate letters of application and other intended-to-be-official correspondence. If you've been on a few search committees, you know what I mean. Like when the poet applies for the quantitative methodology position and attempts to explain why he or she would be a good fit for the position. This is reflected in Nancy's assumptions that the reader knows way more about his life than the reader ever could, and his assumption that he and the letter reader are in an actual dialog (he writes BACK after the first response and seems to fully expect the same person to read his letter, to remember the first letter, and to continue developing their correspondent relationship).

Also quite amusing are the twists, turns, and contortions the responders go through in their attempts to return Nancy's extreme politeness and congeniality--that is, unless the person responding is a lawyer, in which case the response to Ted's almost child-like good nature becomes expectedly rude. "Accordingly, we must reject your proposal to share the "Whiskey Pete's" or "Whisky Pats" name in anyway and demand that you not pursue this matter further. If you do, we will be forced to pursue all legal avenues available to protect our rights to this important name."
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