Who is “Petunia_Flowers,” and why is she sending us such literary spam? To evade filters, the pharmaceutical pitches come embedded in a few tantalizing but anonymous sentence fragments—e.g., “rratic ne’er-do-well. Young Emil Gluck was not wanted, and Ann Bartell could be trusted to impress”—which, when tossed into Google, yield a mini-syllabus of off-road offerings. The Gluckin’ spiel is from Jack London’s “The Enemy of All the World,” a misanthropic 1908 fantasia in which our ne’er-do-well, after wrongful imprisonment for murder, becomes an “annihilist,” using a secret device that allows him to spark gunpowder from a distance. Cops shoot themselves; the king and queen of Portugal are assassinated by their unwitting foot-soldiers; German warships explode on the Hudson. Gluck’s ghostly terrorism triggers wars.
That same spam ends with a creepier bit (“Death was the glass; death was between us, coming to the woman first, hundreds of years ago”), which only the most devout Woolfian would recognize from the elliptical “A Haunted House” (1921). Subsequent e-mails include phrases from Irwin Shaw’s 1939 “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” a potent dose of New York nostalgia; Guy de Maupassant’s “A Coward” (1931), a duel story with a twist; and more recent fare culled from Tobias Wolff and George Saunders. We’ll pass on the Viagra, but this aleatory anthology is an unexpected—dare we say welcome?—diversion.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 17, 2004