In Sunday’s New York Times, Washington attorney Craig Welter landed on the Opinion page with a humorous, McSweeney’s-like column entitled “10 Under 10.” The premise is simple and possibly chuckle-worthy: the New Yorker recently did this “20 Under 40” list of the next crop of major fiction writers. According to Welter, “the literary community has turned its attention to even younger emerging talent.” From there, he has jokes. Except on the Times website, the column is broken. Guess which one is funnier.
See, the column is fine. It’s jokes about children. “Emma Bryant’s biography of Jennifer Costawicz, ‘Jennifer Costawicz Is Mean and Fat and Not My Friend Anymore,’ is now available in paperback,” he writes. Because kids are trivial. “Ryan Kearney is the author of several letters to Santa Claus, most recently, ‘Dear Santa, I want a Iron Man Repulsor Blaster and Legos.” That kind of thing.
But when I checked the op-ed online, this afternoon, is looked like this:
Think about that. Not only is it a total “WTF” moment, but it functions as a sharp critique of list-making in general — the arbitrary nature of it all, the meaninglessness, its fleeting presence in the conversation. And what’s with the ages? Forty, ten, whatever. No list! It’s blank.
But it was clear that the Times doesn’t play with experimental satire like this. I knew it couldn’t be right. Could it? I tapped the man next to me on the shoulder, interrupting his bagel eating, and asked for his paper. I dug through the sections and found Mr. Welter’s contribution. It was too good to be true. Passably funny, yes, but so accidentally sharp in its alternate online iteration. The mistake has since been fixed. The Times rolls on, as it’s always been.