You have to hand it to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. While still embroiled in controversy over his attempt to limit how large a non-alcoholic drink New Yorkers are allowed to order (16 ounces, max) and to force women to breast-feed by ordering hospitals to lock up the baby formula, he's embarking on a new campaign, and it's aimed at thrillers. Like his other campaigns, the proclaimed goal of the thriller offensive is to lengthen New Yorkers' lives, even though there are large areas of New York City in which even a relatively short life can feel very, very long.
Someone apparently handed the mayor a sheaf of thriller reviews from the New York Times, accompanied by a selection of online reviews from Amazon and B&N. The mayor was alarmed by the number of references to "staying up all night" and "pulse-pounding action" and requested the New York Life Extension Bureau to prepare a report. The NYLEB's verdict: (1) eight hours should be the shortest legal night's sleep in the five boroughs; and (2) every heart is genetically pre-programmed to beat just so many times and no more, so an accelerated pulse shortens life. The report made it clear that New Yorkers need protection. Thrillers, if they're going to be sold in New York, will need to be regulated.
Among the suggestions from the Life Extension Bureau are:
-- Inserting at random paragraphs containing nothing but conjunctions, enlivened by the occasional adverb;
-- Cutting from suspense sequences to lengthy passages in 19th-century German, preferably in blank verse;
-- Giving one or more of the lead characters a taste for the Victorian novels of George Meredith and George Eliot, and interpolating generous excerpts of Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, and Emilia in England during potentially harmful action scenes;
-- Banning from all thrillers such pulse-accelerators and sleep-postponers as guns, knives, razors, those stretchy things you can trap your index fingers in, dark basements, heights above three stories, criminals without hearts of gold, any scene in which the heroine looks into a mirror and gasps at the reflection of someone behind her, insane dentists, red blinking digital countdowns, people with disfiguring scars, references to Blind Pew, prose inspired by German Expressionism, the "S" in "S&M," sudden loud noises, the long-dead, the recently-dead, the not-quite-dead, evil mayor characters, plot devices involving thought control, and the erosion of personal freedom;
-- Replacing every third action scene with common-sense safety reminders such as Use Sunscreen, Buckle Up, Do Not Point Champagne at Eye When Popping Cork, After Using Toilet Wash Hands Long Enough to Sing Happy Birthday, Do Not Squirt Whipped Cream Into Nose, Pans on Stove May Be Hot To Touch, If You Sing In the Bathtub Don't Inhale Under Water, Keep Chain Saws Away from Children, and Do Not Drink Lemon-Scented Dish Detergent.
-- Requiring writers to expand the amount of time they spend on nonviolent and informative issues such as the growth and weaving of the fibers in characters' clothing; the global chain of garment manufacture; the history of the prescription lens; ninth-grade chemistry; the story of the Daughters of the American Revolution; proposed improvements to the Dewey Decimal System; the inexorable rise of the benevolent city-state; and the low anxiety levels, blood pressure and almost total absence of colon and lung cancer among sheep.
Thriller writers around the world, alarmed by the new regulations, formed secret websites to discuss the issue, and recently 2600 of them joined a global Skype conference intended to come up with an organized counteroffensive, beginning with a Declaration of Unity. The meeting broke up during rewrite.
A smaller and more manageable committee of one writer was deputized to write the Bloomberg administration in protest. Mayor Bloomberg's spokespeople reviewed the letter and released an approved version to the press. It read:
As a writer of thriller fiction, I am to learn of your attempt to regulate our genre. With all due respect, it is a , , idea, one that imperils basic freedoms!
over the years since the founding of
Thomas Wolfe and Willa Cather ( or ).
will surely not prevail.
New Yorkers will live forever.
Tim -- Sundays