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Toilets of the Great Literary Lions of the Mid-20th Century

September 14, 2010

The Goods.

Dear seller of item 370416967312:

I hope you will seriously consider my bid of $59.32 for the purchase of one “J.D. Salinger PERSONALLY OWNED & USED Toilet Commode,” as so eloquently described on your eBay auction site. 

I am an avid connoisseur of such memorabilia, and would be honored to add Mr. Salinger’s privy to my burgeoning collection of Toilets of the Great Literary Lions of the Mid-20th Century. Not to sound boastful, but to date this includes the porcelain sovereignties of: 

Norman Mailer. The toilet obtained from Mr. Mailer’s estate is a squat, obdurate thing – the finish on the seat is worn away from presumably long hours of contemplative use, burnished to an obsidian black beneath the brooding genius and coarse, hairy haunches of its one-time owner. To say it was never cleaned is an understatement, but as you yourself point out in your expert and insightful item description of Mr. Salinger’s commode (“it will come to you uncleaned and in its original condition”), filthiness is part of the charm and intrinsic to the value. 

Truman Capote. While Mr. Capote’s throne was unfortunately scooped up by Mr. Gore Vidal to be used as an umbrella stand, I did manage to secure his bidet with a sealed bid that nearly broke me. With a customized step stool, a built-in ashtray and a water nozzle with more than a dozen customized settings, ranging from “Holly Golightly” (when a spritz is all you need) to “In Cold Blood” (when a fire hose is required), this gilded beauty was worth every penny. 

Hunter S. Thompson. If you need proof of Mr. Thompson’s devotion to hard living, look no further than this masterpiece of plumbing depravity. There is an empty Jack Daniel’s bottle inextricably wedged in the bottom of the bowl, the petrified remains of what looks like an ornamental Asian carp in the water tank, and the whole thing is riddled with buckshot. I have to assume this toilet was decommissioned from active service quite some time before its owner was. Mr. Johnny Depp has made inquiries to purchase, but I’m holding onto the investment.

 John Updike. Liberated from the author’s idyllic home in Beverly Farms, MA, the outer bowl of this puckish, powder blue, 1970’s era toilet is slightly marred with what look like tally marks, presumed to be an informal accounting of all those adulterous conquests he wrote about so convincingly. Or maybe they’re just scrapes from the rivets in his pants. No matter. The true piece de resistance of this literary legend’s loo is the titanium handrail specially installed to support him in his senescense. According to the toilet’s provenance, this grip bar was molded from the very same alloy as Mr. Updike’s artificial hip. When polished it sparkles like the dickens, and makes a terrific cantilever for the support of sexual gymnastics. Not that I would know. 

Ayn Rand. Addressing a serious under-representation of great mid-20th century female authors in my collection, I perhaps overpaid for Ms. Rand’s privy. The competition, from prominent conservative commentator Mr. Glenn Beck, was predictably stiff. I suspect he was bankrolled by the Koch brothers. You can imagine my surprise and bewilderment when upon delivery Ms. Rand’s toilet was revealed to be a fully functioning, upright men’s urinal. I refuse to speculate on the significance of that, though it did inspire me to completely reevaluate the symbolism in her novel The Fountainhead

Philip Roth. This was a tricky one as Mr. Roth remains alive and well-ish and was still using his toilet, though thanks to constipation and an enlarged prostate, not nearly as much as he used to.  I will not divulge my source for obtaining Mr. Roth’s Kohler Crimson Topaz (model #K-14231-TC), except to say it involved a middling sum of hush money paid under the table to a shady contractor from Cornwall, Connecticut. The market for writer’s toilets is increasingly competitive, and sometimes one must rub elbows with corruption to gain the upper hand. 

I understand from media reports that you’re hoping to receive bids in excess of $1 million dollars for Mr. Salinger’s toilet. That’s an ambitious goal. Regretfully the halcyon days of 2007, when market values for author’s toilets hit their peak, are long over. Please pardon the pun, but those were heady times. Everyone wanted a piece of the plumbing. Sadly, the flagging global economy and an unexpected surge in popularity of Singer/Songwriter’s Used Dental Floss as a desirable investment conspired against our once robust portfolios; the toilet market verily defecated in the bed, so to speak.

With that in mind, I’m sure you’ll agree that my standing offer of $59.32 is in good faith, and consistent with present market valuation. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but before we secure this deal I am hoping you can provide me with some verifiable proof that the toilet in question was employed by Mr. Salinger indisputably, and not as a guest room toilet reserved for his onetime, 18 year-old consort Ms. Joyce Maynard. That would seriously sour the deal. A deed of authenticity perhaps, or better yet, the lab-certified results of a DNA swab? It’s just that I’ve been duped before. In the toilet trade, you don’t always get what you think you’re going to get. Case in point: Ayn Rand. 


W.C. Fancier, Esq.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 11:09 am

    This, sir, is brilliant.

    • sean tabb permalink*
      September 15, 2010 9:31 pm

      Thanks Dave. Much appreciated!

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