SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
June 16, 2013

From Russia With What, Now?

 

I woke up on my birthday this year, went about my groggy business, then sat down and turned on the machine. When I checked my email, I found the usual mix of deletable crap waiting for me. But there in and amongst the messages concerning things I didn’t care about was the following:

 

Hello!

Dear Mr. Jim Knipfel !

My name is Edward. I live in Russia in the small city of Novocherkassk. For me a great honour to write to you.

      Happy birthday! And in this day I wish you much pleasure and a lot of congratulations. And I hope all of your wishes come true. And I belief the birthday will be the perfect one!

      I very much like your creativity. You are improbably talented.

      In our city there is a club of fans of the book, and I am a chairman of this club.

Our club conducts the big and interesting work, we meet and we discuss new books, we collect materials about stories of development of the literature and on writers. We correspond with a considerable quantity of people from various corners of our country. You could send me, please, the original, personally signed autograph (Bookplate for “The Buzzing”). I will appreciate very much it. Presence of your autograph will be the real dream which has been carried out for me.

      It you will make me the happiest person!! Please!!! Eventually very much it is not easy to remain during our heavy time happy the person.

      If you consider possible to sign also a photo for our club we will be very grateful to you. To have the photo signed by you - my dream and I is ready to pay all expenses, but I do not know as it better to make.

      In Russia it is impossible to buy neither international stamps, nor the international reply coupon. It is a huge problem!

      Excuse me for it.

      I very much hope for your kindness and understanding.

      I wish you successes and health, and I invite you to Russia.

      My address:

Edward Revenko

{Here he provides a long Russian address}

      Thanks! From Russia with love.

Sincerely yours, Edward.

 

            (This is not a joke on my part, by the way—that’s the actual text of an actual email.)

            After that initial brief flash of “well, that’s a nice thing” (in spite of that “improbably talented” crack and the weak James Bond reference), I came to my senses. Maybe I’m just the paranoid type, but something about the note didn’t smell right. My books have never been translated into Russian and Edward’s command of English seemed a little shaky at best. And weirdest of all, how is it he’d latched onto The Buzzing of all my books? Nobody read The Buzzing. No, this definitely had the stench of cheap scam leaking out of every sentence, like my Nigerian friend who kept offering me money if I let him use my bank account to stash his millions.

      The question was, though, what the hell did he want? There was no mention of money, no shady links, no requests for personal information. The other possibility was that it was just a cruel joke on someone’s part, an attempt to play into my desperation and sad vanity before twisting the knife. But the email address was from Russia, all right. Seemed an awful lot of work to go through. Well, in any case the only thing I knew with any certainty was that I wasn’t sending a damn thing over there. Still, I was curious, so I passed it along to Morgan with a big “What the fuck is this all about, now?” She’s much smarter about these things than I am. She got back to me a few minutes later after having done just the quickest bit of research.

      It seems there are an awful lot of people out there who are either more desperate than I am, more gullible than I am, or simply less paranoid than I am. On the social media sites of small-time writer after small-time writer things like the following had been posted with pride:

 

Hello!

Dear: Ms. Shannon Cunningham!

"My name is Edward. I live in Russia in the small city of Novocherkassk. For me a great honour to write to you.

Happy birthday! And in this day I wish you much pleasure and a lot of congratulations. And I hope all of your wishes come true. And I belief the birthday will be the perfect one!

I very much like your creativity. You are improbably talented.

      In our city there is a club of fans of the book, and I am a chairman of this club.

      Our club conducts the big and interesting work, we meet and we discuss new books, we collect materials about stories of development of the literature and on writers. We correspond with a considerable quantity of people from various corners of our country. You could send me, please, the original, personally signed autograph (Bookplate for “All the Whispers ”). I will appreciate very much it. Presence of your autograph will be the real dream which has been carried out for me.

      It you will make me the happiest person!! Please!!! Eventually very much it is not easy to remain during our heavy time happy the person.

If you consider possible to sign also a photo for our club we will be very grateful to you. To have the photo signed by you - my dream and I is ready to pay all expenses, but I do not know as it better to make.

      In Russia it is impossible to buy neither international stamps, nor the international reply coupon. It is a huge problem!

      Excuse me for it.

I very much hope for your kindness and understanding.

I wish you successes and health, and I invite you to Russia.

My address:

Edward Revenko

Russia

Thanks! From Russia with love.

Sincerely yours, Edward."

 

            Morgan pointed out that there was a Yakov Smirnov joke waiting in all this, and I was wondering how many of these poor sad creatures were already booking flights to Russia to meet with the only people who ever read their awful little books.

            But the more Morgan looked, the more it seemed Edward wasn’t limiting himself to bad writers:

 

Hello!

Dear Ms. Maggie McGuire!

      My name is Eduard . I live in Russia in city Novocherkassk . Our city very small and consequently for me a great honor to write to you. I am very much, very much the great admirer of your sports activity. In our city there is a fan club of your name and I am its chairman. Very much I ask you to send me by mail your photo and your autograph. Very much it would be desirable that the autograph nominal on my name. It will make me the happiest person! Please!!! After all very not to be easy during our heavy time the happy man. Very much I hope for you understanding ! I wish you successes and health! I invite you to Russia.

With the big respect and hope, Eduard Revenko

 

Edward Revenko

Russia

Thanks! From Russia with love, Edward

 

            The weird thing was, all the notes seemed to be slightly different. He wasn’t just sending the same letter over and over with a new name and title dropped in. I was growing more curious still, but not curious enough to actually do anything about it, and certainly not curious enough to trust any of it.

            If I had any suspicion left that these other recipients of Edward’s good wishes, like me, were doubtful about the whole thing and only posted the letters on their websites ironically, one poor dumb soul even saw fit to thank ol’ Edward on the acknowledgements page of her eBook:

 

"Henry, my son in-law, the man who can do anything! You surprised us again; creating a cover for this book that is something I might have dreamed.

      Eduard Revenko who sent me a letter from Russia to say, “You are great writer,” and started a fan club in my name in Novocherkassk, Russia and brought me to realize that my books are read in much farther places than I would have known. Cl'IaCI/I60, Eduard..."

 

            Yes, well, I’m not gonna be the one to tell her. But the question still remains—what in the hell does Edward want?

 

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