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“Dear Mr. Luent: We are including a small sampling of the letters up for
auction for your review.”

Illustration by Aleks Zelenina

June 31, 2039

Dear Mr. Luent,

It is our pleasure to inform you that our firm will be holding a sale of estate correspondence at Sotheby’s, the famed auction house. As you have shown an interest in this category of items before, we are informing you of the upcoming auction, to be held on September 31st of this year, at the Sotheby’s World Headquarters in New York.

Kindly RSVP.


Sue Grabitenrun,
Head of Estate Dissolution
Dewey, Cheatem & Howe

NB We are including a small sampling of the letters up for auction for your review; they are part of a single set belonging to a certain idiosyncratic hostess who was known for her lavish entertaining and scandalous hedonism around the turn of the century.



June 1, 2004

Candy, darling-dear,

I am sending you the menu for my annual picnic – you know, the usual thing… (It’s the food that pesky Count DeMonay requested last year and didn’t get, and I thought it would be a good starting point for this year. Of course, I’ve taken out many unnecessary parts and, besides, it’s a rough draft, so feel free to make changes.)

The invitation is included also. Do be a sweet pea and pass it along to everyone in the usual circle. Oh, except for Biff and Miffy; they were simply ghastly the last time around, throwing cupcakes at the Grand Duchess and guzzling truffle oil – from the bottle! Those two simply don’t know what decorous behavior is, and I certainly won’t be labeled a martinet for trying to teach them! So, they’ll just have to learn manners elsewhere. I mean, I just can’t get over Miffy’s attitude – how did she ever work up the nerve to even try and defend herself?! I mean: the nerve – the effrontery! And then she tried to talk back to me – the insolence! And even when I told her that her mother would be hearing of this, she just kept on tweeting and chirping out of that little mouth of hers – the temerity! God! Kids these days… So, anyway, no Biff or Miffy at my picnic, please.

With so many guests to invite and so many more to exclude – I have just been inundated with letters from people I barely know begging to be invited – this is a daunting undertaking indeed! But if we are to be the toast of society, someone has got to do it.

Well, off I go to scream at the caterers, just in case. No rest for the weary.

“Kisses in the wind!”



P.S. Oh, and, after much consideration, I’ve decided to invite that impossible Count DeMonay after all. He certainly is a glutton – I mean, have you seen that distended belly of his?! I swear that enormous thing grows bigger with every meal. And he is a garrulous fellow; will talk you to death if you let him (and in seven languages – what a polyglot)! But, if you ask me, that’s just what makes him so wonderfully gregarious and sociable.

P.P.S. Or do you think I shouldn’t invite him after all? He does have that unfortunate habit of always bringing these loud and beastly friends of his, who tend to be either fervent football fans, constantly talking about that horrible – oh, how I abhor it! – barbaric sport, or else are raging bores, constantly not talking. And last time he actually brought a baby boar, claiming that ‘he’ was a descendant of the wild boar that killed Adonis. And then he was mad at me when, after turning the entire picnic upside down, the boar ended up on a silver platter with an apple in its mouth. (Of course, that didn’t stop the Count from gobbling up the little piglet whole-hog, like a ravenous wolf.) Oh, what to do, what to do… What a quandary!

P.P.P.S. Or maybe I should invite him after all – for the entertainment value, you know? Oh, Candy-darling, I’m one confused hostess…

P.P.P.P.S. All right! I’ve decided once and for all – we shall not adulterate our fine picnic with the likes of the Count! He’ll probably just eat too much, drink too much, tell a few banal jokes everyone’s heard before, and repeat some trite Latin expression over and over until everyone just wishes he’d go belly up or something. Then, he’ll fall asleep on the blanket, belly up, snoring like he was sleeping under the walls of Jericho. Sic transit gloria mundi…

P.P.P.P.P.S. Candy, cupcakes! I know you’re going to call me a flip-flop, but I just sent the Count a note telling him we’d love to see him after all. You see, I saw a new word – iconoclastic – in a magazine article yesterday. It comes from these ancient Greeks breaking things… Chauncey told me that these days, people use it to refer to someone who’s very brave and not afraid to stand up to established ideas or standards – a real man, you know? – a real hero for our time! And I thought how wonderful it would be to have someone like this among us at the picnic. Of course, the Count is a bit narcissistic, always trying to catch a glimpse of himself in the backs of serving spoons and all, and smacking his lips at the mirror… And, of course, he has more than his share of egotism: the man only ever wants to talk about himself… Yet, he must be a hero to someone, right? (I mean, he’s a count and all.) And everybody likes a hero. So, we’ll see…