My first political letter had been to Kennedy’s White House with a similar letter sent to Ambassador Stevenson at the UN. Both bureaucracies ignored the content of my letter and merely mailed back a half-pound of anti-Communist propaganda. I got no reply to a subsequent letter to Mao, reporting to him what I’d told Kennedy but admonishing him to keep his hands to himself.
By the time I was writing to Lyndon Johnson I realized that I might as well be talking to Santa. Then I heard of LBJ’s once picking a letter from the pile that was printed in pencil on composition book paper. President Johnson recognized the stamp of the people and replied personally to that writer: a little girl.
When intelligibility is barricaded, you might as well just blow raspberries.
I decided that from then on my letters would be illiterate. Pat Paulson regularly mispronounced the President’s name; I routinely misspelled it. But my principle inspiration was Mark Twain (Swift already present in that American’s efforts).
My first missive during LBJ’s presidency was a postcard. It was addressed on the obverse side to “The Government, Washington, DC.: on the reverse the entire message read:
or ship out.
Both sides, in black felt-tip had a Treasure Island, black-spot aura: or that of the Mafia’s black hand. But I signed it: “Knatz.”
Black Spot illustration by Wyeth
Another letter to LBJ began “Greeting” [sic] imitating selective service notifications. I informed the President that since he felt at liberty to draft my son (I was the one who’d been drafted a few years earlier, but I decided to pretend to be an “adult”) and to waste his life at his, LBJ’s, personal convenience, I’d be borrowing his Texas ranch for a party I’d be giving. I told him what liquors and foods to stock for my guests and caterers. (I instructed him to stock Haig & Haig pinch-bottle scotch so I could make the bottles into lamp bases afterwards.)
But my great letters are my Nixon letters. I stopped writing them following Watergate when the likes of Russell Baker, NYT, op-ed, was himself penning Swiftian ironies: and getting them published!!!
I sent a sample to Baker years later, he responded with applause.
PS If you don’t already know Swift’s satires, and Twain’s, especially Twain’s letters, to Oliver W. Holmes, for example, what are you doing reading here?
2015 04 17 I watched a DVD documentary on “drugs” and the brain, drugs and the mind, last evening. Nixon was quoted liberally: the Nixon we came to know from the White House Tapes: and from other past-Watergate, post resignation sources. Now everyone know that Nixon! No no one knows that prior to the resignation nearly no one knew that Nixon. We now live in a world in which my extraordinary satires, foolishly courageous, seem “common”. Not at all: not a’t’all.