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Application File

Alan Ziegler



May 3


Your application has been received but not yet acknowledged. This response should not be inferred as being anything other than what it says.




May 11


We are pleased to acknowledge your application. We will now set out to get a clear sense of who you are. This will take time, as we take nothing and no one lightly. We are nothing if not thorough and we are thorough, which makes us truly something.




June 19


We write with the good news (to us - it will come as no news to you) that we have confirmed you are who you say you are and have done what you say you did. Now we address the task of evaluating who you are and what you have done. This is what we get up for in the morning, and what we think about when we fall asleep at night.




August 12


Our silence should not be construed as neglect or negativity. We merely misjudged our vacation schedules (we were done-in by unintended consequences of the summer house share) and had a run of ill health (see previous parentheses). We barely have the people power to write these letters. We could use someone like who we think you are.




September 5


We are in need of additional supporting materials. You should be assured that our request reflects our voracious appetite for reading about you. Now that we are again at full-strength, we lack enough of you to go around, and several of us are feeling bereft. In the event there are no teachers or employers untapped by your extensive dossier, we suggest that you take a temporary position and enroll in an evening course.




September 9


Could you provide us with a list of ex-lovers? If so, please describe the physical high and low moments of each relationship, from both points of view. Kindly indicate the circumstances in which each relationship was terminated and who, in your judgment, was at fault. Forgive the personal nature of this request. We are doing our part to ameliorate the blanket of anomie that pervades the workplace.




September 14


What is the origin of your last name? Has it been shortened? Your answer will be used for statistical purposes only.




September 17


Thank you for your interest in our company. Unfortunately, we do not have any appropriate openings at the present time. We shall endeavor to contact you should that situation change.




September 23


Please disregard the previous letter, which was the result of a clerical error. We regret any inconvenience. We might add that we found your response quite understandable.




October 9


We are pleased to offer you a personal interview. Due to renovations underway in our offices, we invite you to meet us at Chez Avec Amis, a cozy bistro in a quiet corner of town tomorrow at 6 p.m. We have reserved the back room. Directions enclosed. Kindly bring any available photographs from the attached list. We apologize for the short notice, and assure you it is not the result of a last-minute cancellation.




October 11


Did you inadvertently happen to wind up with an extra left glove (tagged vera pelle)?




October 26


We have finally received completed reports from all those who attended your interview. (It is a good sign that we could barely pry people away from their computers.) We will now disperse into the field.




November 9


We have completed a series of meetings with your references. Not unexpectedly in matters of this kind, several issues have arisen. Kindly respond to the enclosed questions. Please understand - as we do - that the quoted material is no more - or less - than one version of the truth. (Two questions were inserted by one of us over the strenuous objections of many.)




November 15


We are pleased to tell you that we found your responses quite satisfactory; any new questions raised by your answers, we all agree, are better left untethered. And we are delighted to report that a suitable position has just opened up (please refer to parentheses in previous letter). As you can imagine, there is much paperwork to be done. You shall hear from us before the end of the year.


December 19


It is to our great chagrin that we will not be able to offer you a position, as our operations will be shut down immediately following completion of our open correspondence. There is widespread disagreement as to whether this cessation was precipitated by an inadequacy in our business plan or poor execution thereof. Suffice it to say, we all agree that had you begun this process sooner, the outcome might have been more felicitous.




January 2


It was kind of you to surprise us at Chez Avec Amis (you remembered!), and to pick up the check. Bringing the glove was a lovely touch. We are intrigued by your offer, and we feel we have much to contribute. The requisite paperwork is enclosed. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.







Alan Ziegler’s books include The Swan Song of Vaudeville: Tales and Takes; The Green Grass of Flatbush (which received the Word Beat Fiction Book Award, selected by George Plimpton); and So Much To Do (poems); he has also published three books on writing workshops – the latest is The Writing Workshop Note Book from Soft Skull Press (U.K. edition from Souvenir Press). His work has appeared in such places as The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and Tin House. He is currently at work on Based on a True Life: A Memoir in Pieces (an excerpt from which is available on, along with an interview). He is Professor of Writing and Director of Pedagogy at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where he was chair of the Writing Division from 2001-2006 and won the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching.


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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