Sell Out

Simon Rich's comic novella Sell Out is being serialized in the New Yorker this week. It's about a guy who falls into a vat of pickle brine and is miraculously preserved for 100 years. When he wakes up, he meets his great great grandson, Simon Rich, in Brooklyn.

“Please,” I say. “I must know. What path have you chosen for your life?”

Simon smiles proudly at me.

“I’m a script doctor,” he says.

I shake my head with astonishment.

“That is so wonderful,” I say, my eyes filling up with tears. “I am so proud. I cannot believe my descendant is medical doctor.”

Simon averts his eyes.

“It’s actually just a screenwriting term,” he says. “ ‘Script doctor’ means I, like, punch up movie scripts.”

I stare at him blankly.

“ ‘Punch up’?”

“You know, like, add gags.”

“What sort of gags?”

He clears his throat.

“Let’s see.… Well, the script I’m working on now is about a guy who switches bodies with his pet dog? So I’m adding all these puns, like ‘I’m doggone mad!’ and ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you!’ You know, things like that.”

A long time passes in silence.

“So you are not medical doctor.”

“No,” Simon admits. “I am not.”

That's from Part One of Four. Here are Parts Two and Three. Especially wonderful if you live in Brooklyn:

He leads me down Atlantic Avenue. We pass many strange peoples wearing tight pants and circus mustaches.