by Derek Spencer
Surprise, old friend!
Oh, of course we couldn't truly surprise you, you're much too perceptive for that . . . You're how old? 319, you say? I wouldn't have guessed — you don't look a day over 316 to me. Speaks to your remarkable vim and vigor, certainly, and your ideas are as fresh today as the day you first laid ink to the page.
. . . Yes, Candide was a challenge, you crafty rogue — a challenge to the established order of thought! Juvenal would have been proud. But perhaps you could have made the ending a bit more incontrovertibly cheerful, eh? . . . No, no, I agree, ending your tale that way was your prerogative; the author knows his own work better than the critic, and I thoroughly enjoyed the piece. After all, I don't want to end up like that joyless wretch of a critic you created, oh, what was his name . . . Pococurante! That's the very devil of which we speak. That poor soul simply forgot to enjoy life somewhere along the line.
Perhaps someday I'll have the opportunity to see a performance of one of your plays. I hadn't realized you had written so many! . . . Yes, I agree that Œdipe would be a fantastic work with which to start; your gentle tweaking of Oedipus Rex might be just the thing to spur a fresh evaluation of the source material.
Okay, I've talked your ear off long enough. By the way, have you had a slice of your birthday cake? The icing's rather bitter — I think you're gonna love it.