You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


If some one were to tell me, "I am an entrepreneur," I would place that person somewhere on a continuum that swung from chronically unemployed to shifty to the outright criminal. Because really, who would say that? Maybe an uncle, your mother's brother, who is always hitting your own father up for investment capital. Money that will never be seen again. 

When I picked up Mathias Svalina's slender volume I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur, I had all those prejudices firmly in place. I expected amusing anecdotes about a perpetual loser, an expectation reinforced when I saw that each brief entry began with the statement, "I started this one business..." But I was wrong about Svalina's undertakings and his themes. Some of Svalina's entrepreneurial schemes are outrageously impossible -- his first involves putting padlocks on clouds. Some cater to our vanities, like his proposal to build a skyscraper in his client's exact semblance. There is the occasional, peculiar act of kindness: one company leaves long blonde hairs on the pillows of bachelors. Most often, from the initial proposal, i.e., "I started this one business that released dangerous animals into quiet suburban neighborhoods," he takes the reader in a few hundred words into unexpected and often unsettling territory. He proposes to retrofit your memories with pilot lights, so they will stay lit even when you are on vacation, when you are asleep, or when your loved one has been dead for so long junk mail no longer arrives in his name.

Svalina's entrepreneurial work takes place in a sorrowful world that continues to promise endless possibilities. In this world he is both the eternal optimist and the man who's seen it all. The one thing he is not, ever, is the voice of reason. He is the voice of imagination, which offers the only possible redemption for those of us who know that the voices of doomed lovers just may end up on old dollar bills eventually so crumpled that vending machines reject them.

(Some one has already asked me how on earth I stumbled across this book. What I stumbled across was the publisher,  Mud Luscious Press. They were bringing out a new book by a favorite author, Grim Tales by Norman Lock. When I went to their site to order it, I signed up for a season of their books. You should try both the press and the season subscription (if still offered.) You get lots of cool add-ons with each book -- bookmarks that contain brief stories, stories designed to fit onto postage-stamp-sized cards, and stapled pamphlets of other new writers.  Mud Luscious Press )


  1. I found a few excerpts on-line and it looks pretty irresistible. After all who can stay away from a critique of a “Randian post-industrial society.”

  2. I had to look up what that meant, and I am still not sure. I think they meant to say a "randy post-industrialist society."