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Ever accidentally sent a mass e-mail to your office describing your Not Safe-For-Work fantasy kingdom? Or been confused about the ground rules at a cuddle party? Looking to rent an overpriced room in the Hamptons from a co-dependent sociopath with a checkered past (and a hot tub)? Good.
Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason collects Mike Sacks’s unique humor pieces—Craigslist ads, lesser-known tantric positions, letters to famous authors, Shaft living in the suburbs, a classic-rock DJ suffering a nervous breakdown, the occasional list—into one handsome, convenient volume. Originally published in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and McSweeney’s, among other venerable publications, Sacks’s writing is original and sharp, yet broadly funny. Whether it’s a groom tweeting his wedding and honeymoon in real time, or a publisher offering editorial suggestions for The Diary of Anne Frank, Sacks’s work tangles contemporary social satire with his absurdist sensibilities.
"Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason makes you laugh out loud, and at the same time it inspires wonder. 'This is my language?' you’ll find yourself thinking. 'Really?' Nowhere else will you read the phrase 'shame spiral eye patch' or find the word 'robot' alongside 'with a bar tending degree.' This is to say that Mike Sacks is not just a sensational comic writer, but a sensational writer—period.
"Sacks and his various co-writers are gifted humorists, and it's safe to say that any reader will emit chuckles, guffaws, and chortles on nearly every page."
"An enjoyable collection of zaniness."
“The essays, many of which were published in McSweeney's and the New Yorker, are a selection of contemporary social satires. . . Highlighting this often hilarious book are Yu's many illustrations, such as the inclusion of Pynchon's muted post horn, and Sancton's 10 drawings depicting 'Everyday Tantric Positions' as well as an eight-page pantomime comic strip from Esquire about frustrating Ikea assembly instructions.”
“Smart and silly . . . Sacks particularly excels at literary satire . . .”
“The pieces in Mike Sacks’s Your Wildest Dreams Within Reason succeed on tight, comedic premises . . . enjoying them together gives the reader a deeper understanding of Sacks’s delight in the mundane.”
—Time Out New York
“If words strung together in a humorous manner are something you enjoy, put your eyes on this little beauty.”
"Brilliantly deadpan and somewhat pathological pieces. . ."
“His playful approach to reality could fill a thousand pages and still be fresh and funny.”
“One of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time . . . the pastiche, the parody, the absurd vignette, the comic list – Sacks can do it all.”
“The fun in Your Wildest Dreams is watching Sacks unpack his weirdness, and there’s plenty of weirdness to unpack.”
—The A.V. Club
“Mike is a brilliant and hilarious writer.”
—Comedy Central Insider
“There are lines in this book so inexplicably funny, I wouldn’t dare try to impose any logic upon their mechanics . . . in a single book, Sacks manages to casually allude to numerous philosophers and ‘high-fallutin, authors and credibly pull-off the occasional poop joke.”
“Had me laughing out loud on the 7 train . . .suffice to say Mike Sacks is my type of humor.”
—Ron Hogan, Beatrice.com
“A hugely eclectic and highly original collection.”
—Stefan Sirucek, The Huffington Post
“There is no over-arching theme to these short pieces other than the fact that they are all “laugh-out-loud/piss-yourself-funny.”
“[Mike Sacks is a] comedic brick shithouse.”
“[Sacks] delights in imagining the world much funnier than most of us. His playful approach to reality could fill a thousand pages and still be fresh and funny . . . the laughs roll off the page.”
"Any book that has funny jokes about porno, robots and Shaft has to be good. And this one is."
"Mike Sacks rehabilitated me from a deep, dark depression. I nursed from his teet, followed his gentle wisdom, and now I'm doing much better. Book’s good, too."
—Eric Wareheim, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
"This humor collection is packed with winners. In one of my many favorites, 'The Rejection of Anne Frank,' a publisher slams the 15-year-old girl’s diary for trailing off at the end. What more do you want, America? Mike Sacks is hilarious, unique and possibly crazy. You should definitely buy his book, or at the very least, steal it from somewhere."
—Simon Rich, writer for Saturday Night Live; author Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations, Free Range Chickens, and Elliot Allagash
"This book is super funny but also very human, which is my favorite kind of comedy. Mike Sacks is a very smart and talented guy. Now if he'd just pay me back that money he owes me."
—Paul Feig, creator Freaks and Geeks; author Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence and Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin
"In the world of humor writing, a Mike Sacks story is a must read. Sacks’s stories walk the fine line between clever and ridiculous. Not quite high-brow or low-brow, but more upper middle-brow. They shop at Whole Foods, but still go to Dunkin’ Donuts. In short, his stories make us want to buy inordinately priced organic produce and fried dough. If this does not make him a national treasure than we must redefine the meaning of the term."
—Christopher Monks, editor McSweeneys.net
"Though many people continue to believe that Mike Sacks is little more than a nonexistent cryptid, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, this book proves once and for all that he is real. And that he is brilliant. And if you walk around with this book in your hands, people will think you’re brilliant!"
—Jason Eaton, author The Facttracker
"Sacks has an uncanny ability to see through the b.s. of modern life into what really makes us tick. Which would be depressing as hell, if it weren't so funny."
—Sam Means, writer, The Daily Show and A Practical Guide to Racism
"'A blurb,' as Mike Sacks explains in his book, is 'a glowing remark on the back cover written by an author or TV chef.' Here's my glowing remark: This is a very, very funny book."
—AJ Jacobs, contributing author, Esquire; author The Guinea Pig Diaries and The Year of Living Biblically
"The funniest book since Woody Allen’s Without Feathers, without nearly as many references to the Talmud."
—Dana Brown, Vanity Fair magazine
"In Your Wildest Dreams, Mike Sacks claims one of the worst places to die is 'on a toilet…reading this book,' but I would be proud to have anyone discover my body clutching this hilarious volume, as long as I had flushed first."
—Mike Sweeney, head writer Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, The Conan O’Brien Show
"Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason is an eclectic treasure of humor, and the ludicrous suggestion that a pretty blonde would work at Gray’s Papaya."
—Brian Sack, author In the Event of My Untimely Demise and Party Pooper
"Mike Sacks takes on the narration personae of the hapless, the moronic, the pathetic, and the administratively-inclined in order to save comedic prose, yes, but more importantly to make you laugh in that twitchy, awkward way that is hugely sincere, but also unbecoming on the subway."
—Julie Klausner, writer for Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins and Robert Smigel’s TV Funhouse; author of I Don’t Care About Your Band
"Sacks’s wit isn't just razor sharp—it'sas sharp as the tool that a mohel brings to a circumcision. And it’s just as likely to leave its beneficiary gasping for air . . . and, for some reason, lox."
—Rob Kutner, writer The Daily Show, Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien; author, Apocalypse How: Turn the End Times into the Best of Times!
"Laughter can be found on nearly every page of this collection. Except, of course, for page 87. There is nothing on that page but unflagging horror and despair."
—Dan Guterman, head writer, The Onion
"With Your Wildest Dreams, Mike Sacks proves himself to be one of today's best humor writers. He also proves himself to be completely and utterly out of his mind. Seriously, I don't want this guy anywhere near me or any of my stuff."
—Jon Wurster, The Best Show on WFMU
"Like most comedy savants, Mike Sacks knows too much about the human condition to interact with us. Seriously, if fate puts you anywhere near this guy, steer clear. Read this book instead. It's sharp, knowing and laugh-out-loud funny—and, unlike Mike, not hazardous to your health. "
—Frank DiGiacomo, the only person in The Aristocrats who didn't get a single laugh.
"I would call Mike Sacks’s Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason, a fantastic bathroom read, but no one should ever laugh that hard in a bathroom. That would be like something out of a Mike Sacks piece. A great, great collection."
—Chris Regan, co-author America (The Book); author Mass Historia:
365 Days of Historical Facts and (Mostly) Fictions
"Why surf the web for hours trying (unsucesfully) to find something funny, when you can just pick up this book and surf Mike Sacks' brilliant brain? Funny tweets, texts, stories, lists, confessions, rules, and even dirty pictures... all between these two covers, with no cookies or pop-ups."
—David Miner, Producer, Manager, and Partner at 3 Arts Entertainment
“If you’re not prudish about a bit of crass humor and appreciate intelligent comedy bordering on the ridiculous, then Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason is a definite must-read.”
“If you don ‘t mind getting made fun of, Mike Sacks’s Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason is for you.”
To: All Staff
Subject: Whoops, Sorry About That Last E-Mail!
I’d just like to apologize for the last e-mail, which I sent to “All Staff.” I meant to send it to my friend Alex Stafford. It was a mistake. Sorry.
To: All Staff
Subject: Clarification on Apology E-Mail!
I want to apologize for not being entirely clear in my last e-mail. Let me try to be more specific: originally, I was attempting to send my friend Alex Stafford (not All Staff) an e-mail on horses and how I’ve always liked to watch horses run. I then made a leap into the realm of the imaginary. Again, I do apologize.
To: All Staff
Subject: re: what the fuck?!
Wow. Today just ain’t my day! I’ve been told that I have more “explaining” to do, re: “the realm of the imaginary.” So here goes: I probably should have told you that for the past two years, give or take a few months, I’ve imagined myself as a talking horse and that, as this talking horse, I’ve ruled a fantasy kingdom populated by you guys, my co-workers. The 27 images I included in the first e-mail are, in fact, Photoshop montages, not actual photos. Carry on!
To: All Staff
Subject: re: You Have More Explaining to Do About Those Images!
There are days and there are days! Perhaps I’m not expressing myself as well as I should. I guess that’s why I’m in accounting and not PR! Okay, let’s start from the very beginning. In this imaginary world I’ve created, I’m a talking horse. Simple. You guys are my servants. All of you have kept your real names, but your “imaginary” selves have taken on new roles in my fantasy land. A quick example:
“Mary Jenkins” from benefits is a fair maiden who was born in a stable and grew up to fall in love with “Chris Topp” from payroll, who works as a candle maker and sleeps behind the bar in the tavern run by “Wayne Harris” from the mailroom, who is secretly seeing “April Kelly” from office services, who works as my “horse girl” and soaps me down every night before I sleep on my bed of hay. Is this making more sense? For the record, all Photoshop images are a combination of photos found on the Internet and your headshots from the company directory. Steve, I’m about ready for lunch if you are.
To: All Staff
Subject: re: I Feel Violated!!!
Imagine my surprise to return from lunch only to find hundreds of e-mails in the ol’ inbox! Seems that quite a few of you have additional questions concerning the roles that you play within my magical fantasy land. Sigh. It’s really quite simple:
“Hope Marks” from the nurse’s office refuses to sleep with “Darryl Russell” from security because Darryl is a centaur (see image #6) and Hope is a unicorn (image #3). “Kathryn Haynes” from marketing has caught wind of this because she was born with over-size ears (image #14) and can hear literally everything. She also tends to walk around the village nude (image #8) and sleep with anyone who happens to be available; in one instance, she cavorts with “Jamie Devine” from payroll by the banks of a river, as “Betsy Schneider” and “Krista Stark” from the cafeteria look on in wonder (image #7). I also look on in wonder (images #4 and #5).
In another instance, “Katy Devine” from special projects climbs to the top of the bell tower that’s located on my castle and makes love to “Doug Benson” from security, as “Jessica McNally” from the nurse’s office braids my tail in a most tender fashion (image #11). She is not wearing a top (image #12) or a bottom (image #13).
Meanwhile, “Alexis Weber” from the front office is an angry dwarf in need of gold. He has just taken on an assignment to kill “Bob Simmons” from purchasing, but only after he has promised “Marina DelGado” from human resources that he will turn her into a good witch by way of a magical spell. This magical spell consists of having sex with a complete stranger (“Mitch Fitzgerald,” also from human resources) while riding a white mare, ass-back and fancy free, across a great plane (image #9). The horse, if you haven’t already guessed, is me (image #1). In the background, if you look closely enough, you can just make out “Joe Griggs” from janitorial looking on in wonder (image #2).
Whew! Done! By the way, anyone have the forms for the Milner project? I really need them by this afternoon. Thanks!
To: All Staff
Subject: re: you’re sick!
Holy cripes! Sometimes I wonder if anyone besides me gets any work done around here! I step away from my desk for two seconds and I come back to discover that a thousand more questions have been posed! Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s super that all of you are taking an active interest in my fantasy kingdom, but my goodness! So let me just tie up one loose end and let me do it real, real quick, because I’ve just been notified that I’ve been fired:
Yes, that is you, “Samantha Rymer” from expenses, standing next to a razzleberry bush in image #15. And yes, Samantha, that is indeed a crown of doves perched atop your head, and no, Samantha, those are not your real breasts (images #16-27).
Everyone up to date? I’m really gonna miss all of you! I feel we’ve become especially close over these past two years! And that even goes for “Marina the Good Witch” from human resources! I honestly did not know that “good witches” could get so angry! LOL!
Your Imaginary Leader Who’s Now Waving Goodbye . . . As Kathy from Security Hangs on Tightly and Rides Him (see attached image),
Mike the Talking Horse
Dear Mister Thomas Pynchon
A Rhon Penny Letter
Dear Mister Thomas Pynchon:
Thank you for taking the time to open this envelope and read what is contained herein. I know that you, like me, are a very busy and serious man, so I don't intend to waste our times. I will have you know that while I am a fan of your work, this is the first instance in which I have attempted to make contact with you. You could say that I was waiting for the exact right moment and, if you did say that, then you would be right.
I am a writer named Rhon Penny (silent h) and I am no longer married. I am writing to you today because I have just finished my latest novel, and it would be my great honor for you to blurb it. If you are unaware, a blurb is one of those glowing remarks you find on the back of a book’s cover written by a highly-regarded author or T.V. chef. For example, if I were blurbing this letter it would go:
“If you could only read two things this year, make one this letter . . . and the other maybe the Magna Carta!”
In today's literary climate, it is essential that a new writer obtain a blurb so that Joe Q. Dumbbell will feel confident that a famous person thinks a book is worthy enough of purchase or library rental. My publisher/mother tells me a top-notch blurb can mean the difference between Harry Potter-type sales and Harry Stottleberg-type sales (a guy who lives in our building). As my primary care physician says, “Humans are fickle pickles,” which, while true, has never really explained why he has me on such a complicated smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals. I am very tired.
Like yourself (no doubt) I find blurbing to be absolutely repulsive. It is crass, pathetic, and couldn’t be less artistic. Just so you know, I am only doing this because the more I think about it, the more I would like to make a lot of money. Full disclosure: I named my conjoined Siamese cats Tommy and Pinchie. Tommy just died, which has made movement difficult for Pinchie. But she pushes on like a feline boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (F. Scott Fitzgerald).
Like blurbs, an author’s choice of title is very important for sales. Take Gravity’s Rainbow. That is a terrific title. Why? Because it tells you exactly what the book is about. I would like to think that my book’s title does the same: Cream of America Soup.
Okay. By this point, I am going to assume that you have already agreed to blurb me, so let me just say, “Thank you.” I truly appreciate it.
Now let us concentrate on the blurb itself. If you would like to construct your own blurb then, please, by all means, construct it! You’re good with words. On the other hand, should you prefer that I create a blurb for you to affix your name and well-deserved reputation to, then I have taken the liberty of coming up with some samples (please note the use of exclamation marks). I am not saying these blurbs are all of the highest quality, but I will say that I could not possibly be prouder of them, even if they were to somehow leap off this page and go cure cancer. Here they are:
“Fifteen thumbs up!”
“If I had a disease that made me retch every time I read a great sentence, I would never stop vomiting while reading Ron Penny’s latest novel!" [Note the misspelling of “Rhon.” This will get people talking.]
“It is not for me to say if Rhon Penny is a great new young talent, but I will say this: Yes, he is greatly talented, and no, he is not young!”
“If I were married to Rhon Penny . . . I would never leave him!”
You have to be wondering: What in the world is this novel I’ve agreed to blurb actually about? And why is Thom no longer married? Excellent queries both. I will not tell you why I’m no longer married, but my book’s subject matter is very much like Gravity’s Rainbow in a way, and in other ways, not at all. It's also very much a post 9/11 book, but not overtly. I’m not saying you need to know a lot about the medieval feudal system, Lady Byrd Johnson, bats, my wife’s fear of conjoined Siamese cats, democracy, or linguini . . . but it wouldn't be such a bad thing if you did.
What I am saying, however, is that the book takes place in Connecticut. (Yes, I’m aware that a lot of people refuse to write about the Nutmeg State—for obvious reasons—but it is a state I know and care deeply about. Furthermore, being afraid of criticism just ain’t in Rhon’s genetic nature.)
For reasons I can’t get into, I must end this correspondence right now. But I will not sign off without addressing the giant elephant in this letter. Yes, if you blurb my book I will then blurb your next one. And I can promise you, as sure as I’m writing this letter with my lucky troll’s head pen, that it will be laudatory . . . even if I absolutely hate it! I just have a funny feeling that I’m going to “adore” and “love” and “highly recommend” the thing! Catch my “drift”?
In closing, let me say three things. One, I would certainly take my ex-wife back if she ever leaves Bernard. Two, feel free to keep the enclosed sign that reads “Danger! Writer’s Zone!” That is a gift and it will go well in your office. And three, please allow me to express what I have to say in the form of a blurb:
“If you could grow great people in the ground like tomatoes, then I would only plant seeds of you in the garden of my life so that I could have you available to top all of my future life salads. That said, if you could send a really well-thought out blurb to my return address, I would greatly appreciate it!”
Self-addressed envelope included. Stamps, not, but highly recommended.
Yours in the words,
My name is Mike Sacks and I’ve just written a book for Tin House called Your Wildest Dreams, Within Reason. The book is out March 1st. The book is a collection of 54 short humor pieces from various publications, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, McSweeney’s, and others. Per my contract, I am obligated to answer some questions about the book. Truthfully, I’d rather be watching “America’s Got Moxie” on television or dealing with this herpes sore on my palm, and yet I have little choice—legal jazz and all that. So, here are some answers based on submitted questions to my website, mikesacks.com. Thanks for the questions, they were great! All of them, that is, except the one about dead birds.
Will this book be similar to your last book?
No, completely different. My last book was a novel about Hitler’s dentist called “Dr. Mueller.” This book contains 54 short humor pieces on every subject imaginable.
Is there a common theme among the 54 pieces in this new book?
No, there’s no common or overarching theme to any of these pieces. But, strangely, each story does end with a humorous twist. I didn’t plan it that way. For instance, and not to give anything away, but in one of the pieces, the main character turns out to be missing an arm. Everything then becomes crystal clear.
Have you ever made love to a literary groupie?
How about a rock and roll roadie?
Yes. Nice gal. Big as a haystack, but nice. Worked for the Allman’s.
Do you have a favorite piece in the book?
That’s a tough one. That’s like asking, Who’s your favorite kid and why is he your favorite? Is it because he ain’t hunchbacked like the others? In other words, it’s an impossible question to answer without offending some liberal or other do-gooder, but if I had to pick just one favorite, I’d say “Whoops!” or “Rules for My Cuddle Party,” both of which because they’re true.
How did you get a blurb from David Sedaris?
David and I used to attend Camp Sea Gull together in Arapahoe, North Carolina. For two summers, we were in the same cabin. We bonded over our love for archery and just lying on the dock, staring at the clouds. We’ve kept in touch, and have remained buddies ever since.
How can we reach you?
Just email me at email@example.com.
Tell us your favorite story about writing.
I’m not sure I have one, truthfully. Writing is boring to describe. But I do have some stories about working retail. Okay, I worked for a number of years at a record store in suburban Maryland called Kemp Mill Records. This was in Aspen Hill, located just behind a housing project. The assistant manager would trade blowjobs with customers for free CDs. The soundtrack to “The Bodyguard” was a popular one. He was later shot to death at a party for defending a girl from her creepy, gun-loving boyfriend. Not a happy story, but there’s a moral in there somewhere.
Do you find any particular writers overrated?
Not really. I admire anyone with the gumption to sit down and actually write a book. No one sets out to write a bad one. And, quite frankly, if a writer is popular, it’s usually for a good reason. I like John Grisham’s books, and I’m a big fan of Stephen King.
I do find some bands overrated, though. Can’t really get into Vampire Weekend. Not a huge fan of Joni Mitchell. And never could understand the cult surrounding Captain Beefheart.
Who were (or are) some comedy influences?
David Sedaris, I think is brilliant. Chris Elliott when he was on Late Night. Andy Kaufman. Jean Shepherd wrote some amazing books. I find Patricia Highsmith hilarious, even though she’s not a comedy writer, obviously. Jack Handey. Steve Martin is amazing. Check out his first book, Cruel Shoes. I love Nabokov, Richard Yates, George Pelecanos—again, not comedy writers, but darkly funny. Also, Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster. The best.
Also, this guy.
Any favorite new books?
Tin House is a fantastic publisher. And I’m not just saying this because they’re publishing my new book. In fact, I went to them to begin with because I love their work. They have a few new books coming out soon that are great (I’ve read advance copies), and you can find them here.
As for books from other publishers, I just finished reading a few, which were fantastic:
Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall, from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady
Tiger, Tiger, by Margaux Fragoso
Super Sad True Love Story by Garty Shteyngart
Townie by Andres Dubus III
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith (not new)
High Times, Hard Times by Anita O’Day (not new)
Will you be touring for your book?
Yes. I’ve never done this before, but I can’t put it off any longer. I’ll be in Chicago (March 10), Portland (April 28, 29), LA (May 1, 3), and Austin (May 12th).
Are you as tall as you appear in photographs?
Taller. I’m 5 feet, 7 inches, with lifts.
How will your tombstone read?
Here Lay A Man Not Good at Grammar.
Tell us about your next project.
I’d like to start a book imprint devoted to humor, both fiction and non-fiction. In the meantime, I’m working on an electronic-only book about the history of canned laughter. Also, I’m working on secret humor project that will make fun of the Wal-Mart culture—it will run 200 pages or so, with a lot of illustrations. So maybe it’s not so secret.
Anyway, would love to see you at one of these reading events, and feel free to get in touch. Just don’t ask about this herpes sore on my palm. Would rather just talk about other things. Like this sore on my leg. ‘Preciate it!