Published in the September, 2007, issue of Esquire (actor Sean Penn on the cover). Available for free on the magazine’s Web site.
The Esquire publication of this piece involved some experiments that I still consider worthy and not mere gimmicks. Worked into the layout of the story itself (both in print and online) are first-person sidebars by secondary characters in the story. I wrote that material for this purpose–some of it from whole cloth, some of it adapted from my own outtakes. (And there were plenty of those. The manuscript was nearly 80 pages at one point. It was submitted at the ridiculous length of 39 pages and then cut–almost entirely by me, with fiction editor Tom Chiarella’s gracious deference–to 28 manuscript pages for publication.)
The first-person sidebars were interesting to do (the story is in the third-person), but even more fun (potentially) are the deadpan references to the story published in other sections of the issue. A book allegedly written by the main character, Gerhard Hookerdicker, was given a brief review. The character Vernon DeCloud had a letter to the editor. The Leisure Meter section suggested pre-ordering a DeCloud invention that figures in the story. There may have been a couple of others. Some of these extra items were accompanied by Web URLs that redirected to the story on the magazine’s site. (The items on Hookerdicker’s book and DeCloud’s invention made it to the online version.)
All of the production innovations were (I believe) entirely associate editor Tyler Cabot’s ideas, in response to editor-in-chief David Granger’s directive to “do something different” with the piece. (I was offered the chance to invent this differential myself, but had no great inspirations.) Tyler’s notion of breaking down the magazine-membrane around the story was brilliant, I thought, but Granger’s imperative had come fairly late in the process and there just wasn’t time to implement the idea to the degree it deserved.
Nonetheless, we all gave it a good bit of extra effort. Then the story came out and no one among the reading public–to my knowledge, not a single soul–noticed the Easter eggs scattered around the issue. Would it have been different had there been fifteen or twenty rather than only four or five? Maybe. Who knows. But everybody at Esquire threw themselves into trying to do something new, which gets a gold star in my book.