The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

Why I Am Not Smart Enough to Subscribe to The New York Review of Books: Exhibits from a Failed Direct Mail Campaign

Quinn Warnick

Exhibit A — A small sheet of paper, folded in half, the outside asking:

Exhibit B — Excerpts from Publisher Rea S. Hederman's letter, found inside the small sheet of paper:

• Who today has the courage to think? Frankly, not many.

• The average subscriber has purchased 37 books over the last 12 months.

• One professor said, "Reading The New York Review is my idea of what going to a brilliant small university should be."

• In each issue, one can count on being thrust front and center amidst the ongoing debate of ideas — without the distraction of shallow thinking.

• Now it is your chance to see the view from above.

• P.S. Think for yourself. Just send back the card.

Exhibit C — Names of famous writers that were used to impress me — but did not, mainly because I have never read anything by these writers — scattered throughout Circulation Manager Amber Hewins's letter, printed on letter-size paper in Courier font, with important sections highlighted in red:

• Stephen Jay Gould
• Tatyana Tolstaya
• George Kennan
• Elizabeth Hardwick
• Oliver Sacks
• Václav Havel
• Andrei Sakharov
• Joan Acocella
• Frederick Crew
• Richard Lewontin
• Andrew Kopkind
• Edmund Wilson
• Mary McCarthy
• Gary Wills

Exhibit D — Name of famous writer I faintly remember from my introductory English course in college, also used in previously cited letter:

• Noam Chomsky

Exhibit E — Name of famous writer whose columns in The New Yorker remind me that I am probably not smart enough for that publication either, also used in previously cited letter:

• John Updike

Exhibit F — The sticker I was supposed to place on the "Savings Certificate" before returning it to begin my subscription:

Exhibit G — The sticker I placed on the "Savings Certificate," despite the helpful prompt to "Place 'YES' sticker here" and the frequently asked question throughout the mailer, "Should we count you in?":

Exhibit H — The reason I tried to alter the mailing address on the return envelope in an attempt to save thirty-three cents when mailing a letter to my brother: