Funny and useful "no thank you" form letters

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Edmund Wilson strikes me a a first-class prat.

Why would anybody expect a stranger to say ‘yes’ to any of those things?

Seems more likely he was on the receiving end of exactly those things he’s complaining about and it got exasperating.


[quote=“frauenfelder, post:1, topic:71061”]
Creative people say yes until they have enough work that they can say no.
[/quote]This, right here. I remember the first time I burned a bridge with an actor-director that I’d gotten fed up with and felt like my time could be better spent elsewhere. I just wrapped things up with her and literally never answered her phone calls again.

I think she’s working in HR these days. The world is better for it.


The Evelyn Waugh one is priceless!

It’s a common problem for authors and other celebrities: everyone who reads their work (or sees them perform or whatever) feels an emotional connection that isn’t and can’t be reciprocated. Most of us realise this intellectually, and keep our pestering of celebs to a minimum; others feel that the author is in a less lop-sided relationship and can be approached for any odd thing that they feel the author can help them with. See also how often authors are asked to help with students’ homework when they are the subject, and how obnoxious those requests can be.


Edmund is busy-bragging. I’m sure it is exasperating, but why publish something like that, other than to point out how successful, famous and in-demand you are? I don’t know, maybe if you come off as a prat, people will start to leave you alone. Those who make their living from being in the public eye realise that there is both upside and downside. It is how they respond to that realisation that is interesting.

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This is an usual posting theme for Frauenfelder and Doctorow (and others?), What I learned from years of this kind of posts is that authors (and other media personalities) that do this little printed FAQs do not do it because they are huge “prats” and do not feel the need for personality-cult , but out of simple practicality, and because they had been in situations where such and such requests(and questions) had been done to them even dozens of times in a day. Also, they want to keep doing what they like and are good at while paying the bills.

Some examples that I found in a quick search:

Another example in boingboing, about the FAQ that Tom Wilson (Totally not a prat, but played as THE prat on 3 movies.) use to give when questioned in public about ‘Back to the future’:



The world is improved by more people in HR?


It’s certainly better off with her not on stage.


A few years ago I saw a form letter (maybe on BB, I don’t recall) which an author/scientist (I forget who) would send to people who thought they had found holes in relativity, thermodynamics, quantum theory, etc, with a list of items which could be checked off explaining why the recipient’s idea was wrong, previously “discovered” and disproven, etc. A reply letter of that sort must be really handy for people who constantly receive submissions from self-taught scientists.

I’ve been trying to find it again, but with only my flaky memory to go on, I haven’t had much luck yet.


Not sure why you feel the need to project such specific emotions on a stranger because of one little block of text. That seems really weird to me.

But having done a little research…the boy had an attitude and a mouth on him (and was kind of an inconsistent jerk (he had bursts of quite good principles by all good appearances, but also was plenty jerky in others)), so this is totally in line with other things he’s written. In fact, now that I’ve discovered that particular formerly living character I’d be disappointed by anything else.

So nope, not busy-bragging. Just grouchy.

The mathematician Edmund Landau allegedly had cards printed along the lines of:

[quote]“Dear Sir or Madam: Your attempted proof of Fermat’s Theorem has been received and is herewith returned. The first mistake is on page --, line – .”[/quote] and had his students complete them.


Making your living as a writer and critic who notably explored Freudian and Marxian themes is a far cry from making one’s living “from being in the public eye.”

The people he wants to say “in this fashion no” to do not deserve the courtesy of an individual reply.

You may console yourself that I am, as of this date, still manually composing these posts.


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My favorite is at the top:


Why would you assume that those approaching him do not deserve the courtesy of an individual reply? This sort of form letter does not really save anyone any significant time, and seems to me to just be a way of trying to appear clever and sarcastic. Standard-form rejection letters are disappointing enough. To receive one of these where the sender is also trying to make some sort of joke at your expense is just rude. A less rude response would be no response at all.

Why would I assume they would?

He owes them nothing. Perhaps the lack of a response might be more polite than this one, but a certain type of person (the one who assumes that the presumption of their contact deserves a response) assumes that their contact deserves a response, and will continue to contact until they receive one.


It is a sad world in which we treat others only in accordance with what we feel we owe them.

I imagine that it saves the author significant time. Grab the form, place a tick or two, stuff it in an envelope, write the address; takes much less time than writing a complete letter in the standard mode as though one cared what the recipient will feel about being rejected, especially if one has to do it multiple times in a day. An author’s first duty is to look after their own resources, which means being selective about what one does for free.


On the other hand, having to cater to cohorts that feel entitled to your time and free services can hinder one’s own work, whether the paid kind or the kind that one wants to do.