‘Closed Letters to an Open Institution’ is a book by Martinus Benders of which this letter is a part. It is not the intention that you react to this letter, Mr. van der Graaff, in fact it would be very much appreciated if you would refrain from reacting and just accept the fact that you are now among those receiving closed letters.
A week or so ago I received a chat message via Facebook from a drunk character who, according to him, was referred to me by one Maarten van der Graaff as if I were an authority on alcoholic refreshments. I want to thank you very much for that, and it made me think a little about my literary role in the past and the present and especially about the fact that I never addressed people who were younger, especially because I then get the line from KRS One (‘I don’t battle young rappers / That’s child abuse’) in the back of my mind. Maarten, I met you a couple of times in real life. You seemed like a decent guy, but you’re weighed down by the burden of the ‘well-to-do family’ – yes, it’s very visible. Every glance you cast out into the world is, as it were, quacky. So it didn’t surprise me that when you published your first collection you were immediately invited by the King to sit at his table and that you reacted with shame and fury in the NRC, which welcomed your letters as if they were crumbs from the Last Supper table itself.
The fact that descendants of well-to-do families damn well often opt for a nice literary career and that the newspapers then manage to discover a lot of talent in them is already old news since Lunchgate and Ali B. Now that we know that Dutch academics willingly bring you cakes in the old people’s home, the picture is pretty much complete. Maarten, I always thought you were talented, despite all this. I really felt sorry for you. Yes, I know that you had to study theology, and that you were groomed to be the next Talent with the Golden Breeze in the Back like our friend Roelof ter Napel is now allowed to be in all literary-religious batterychickglory. As white men, we really only have one literary script.
We are allowed to love Jesus. And you are not allowed to name that script. In our farm with nice writers, it is actually mainly about effectiveness and usefulness.
And the fact that you tried so hard to shake that off – I can respect that, I really can. So the fact that you now refer to me as a useful person in the alcohol field – fantastic. But I am worried about you, Maarten. I haven’t actually heard from you since Lunchgate. Are you OK, apart from brooding on the next egg? Give us this day our daily bread. Have you ever noticed how alcohol and bread go hand in hand and how psyborg-like that strange little verse you have to recite with it from our great leaders? GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD/ AND DELIVER US FROM EVIL – bread, brooding on our next books.
Did you know that locusts are broody too, to keep it biblical? But I actually wanted to talk to you about something completely different. And that is, you can probably guess, the Our Father of Conspiracy Theories. Maarten, when I was analysing the 20th century again, something suddenly struck me that took the blinders off my eyes. Take a good look at this picture:
Do you see what I mean? Yes, back then, I’m not fooling you, look at another picture here:
Amazon commercials. In the middle of the twentieth century. Maarten, I’m not stupid, am I? You see it too, these people were just practising for what was to come, weren’t they?
Fast. Easy. Contactless. Maarten, how fast, easy and contactless is your existence? Do you think I’ve signalled something here? Why were Amazon adverts hidden in the middle of the Twentieth Century?
The contactless, is that a modern literary ideal? Oh well, I hope you weren’t so tormented by your fate that you turned to the other side of the bread, the alcohol, and that you referred to me as a drunk out of sheer contempt because you really did manage to free yourself from this contortion. Palm oil and Psalms, yummy yummy. He’s a testy one, Maarten, a testy one for you and me.
Maarten, I haven’t drunk for five years. Drop a drop of alcohol on a mycelium and it shrivels before your eyes. And so you see all those drugged chickens in the battery laying smaller and smaller eggs, shrivelled eggs, a sort of carpet of Styrofoam they all make together. And in the middle of that polystyrene foam we white boys recognise the polystyrene face of Our Dear Shepherd, that goes without saying – but why that advertisement in such a strange place? Can you explain it to me, Maarten? I think that’s the only thing I’ll ever ask you.
Your devoted collegue,