Let the bidding begin for my Post-it notes
Among my collected papers: a one-sentence rejection letter of my novel 'David Clopperfield.'
The University of Texas (UT) recently paid British playwright Tom Stoppard $250,000 for 62 linear feet of his writings and "detritus," as The New Yorker magazine put it, which included a report card from 1944 when he was 7 years old. In 2005, UT paid $2.5 million for Norman Mailer's collected works, among which were 25,000 of Mr. Mailer's letters and the identification tag of his late poodle.Skip to next paragraph
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Although my heirs desperately want me to keep the detritus of my life in the family, I feel it is my duty to make my papers available to scholars anxious to analyze how my application for a dog license and fourth-grade arithmetic test influenced my use of the gerund. However, to justify the six-figure cost, I would like to give any university with deep tweed pockets a partial list of what awaits them when they open my boxes (besides a musty odor):
1. A note from my second-grade teacher to my parents applauding my ability to recognize single syllable adverbs beginning with the letter "q." (Unfortunately, most of the note after "Dear" and before "Yours Truly" is obscured by a ketchup stain in the shape of Alaska.)
2. My SAT scores, which represent one of the few mistakes in the history of the College Board testing service. It wasn't until years later that I learned from an anonymous e-mail that my score was actually 200 points higher than listed. (The bite marks on the page are definitely mine as will be verified through dental records.)
3. An outline for a film about the Civil War featuring a leading man named Brett and his wife, Carlete.
4. The first three chapters of a novel about my theory that the angle of the Mona Lisa's right eyebrow is actually a clue to Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision to wear pince-nez glasses instead of rhinestone-encrusted ones.
5. An acceptance letter from Harvard University addressed to Chuck Sohen.
6. An injunction from someone named Chuck Sohen preventing me from changing the spelling of my last name.
7. 34,900 offers for a new credit card.
8. A chain letter promising to end global warming if I send $12 to each of the first 500 people on the list.
9. A one-sentence rejection letter from a prominent publishing house of my novel, "David Clopperfield."
10. A Post-it from Martin Scorcese thanking me for not sending him my latest screenplay.
11. An original Picasso etching. (The signature says Hank Picasso, the name by which the artist went when visiting Knott's Berry Farm each summer.)
12. A fan letter from my mother-in-law in which she not only addresses me by name, but asks me to cook my string beans much longer.
13. An application for the job of Poet Laureate of Muskegon, Mich.
14. A letter to Norman Mailer asking if his poodle was also, like mine, named Snookums.
• Chuck Cohen is a writer in Mill Valley, Calif.