In the grand tradition (urban legend or romantic truth?) of Picasso paying his tabs with on-the-spot sketches, Esquire Magazine solicited authors to pen impromptu stories on cocktail napkins.

Esquire cast its net over the typical Esquire demographic -- mostly male, white, "serious" fiction or Belles Letterers (Rick Moody, Ben Schrank, Jonathan Ames, were notables). The closest they got to genre that I recognized (and it may be my own failing that I was unfamiliar with most of the contributors) was T. Jeff Parker. His story was non-fiction:

I wish Esquire's exercise gave more rope to genre writers. Crime fic -- especially something this flash -- seems cosmically ordained for a bar napkin. A perfect marriage of form and function. Drink, write, drink, drink, sop up your messes and demons, trying not to shred the pulpy paper with the pen or let its ink bleed through like the hot cherry of a cigarette. Think of the possibilities:

Napkin Noir
Napkin Pulp
Napkin Space Opera
Napkin Weird Tales

I jot on napkins and 99% is rubbish or unintelligible. But I do like the stream-of-consciousness I tap into when I'm inspired, and the relative anonymity while I hunch over my drink and write. I don't expect much. And I like the confined space of the napkin (bigger than a business card, smaller than a honking laptop computer). The squares are aesthetically pleasing, very unassuming. And theoretically the claustrophobia helps the short sharp bursting style.

My scribbling occasionally on a napkin at a bar, or on a whole sheaf of them over beers can't be worse than the ten sequential numbers I may never actually dial of a girl I may never hear from again.

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Comment by Stephen Blackmoore on March 15, 2007 at 9:30am
I've tried that a few times. But my scrawling gets more and more unintelligible the drunker I get, and then, after I stuff them in my pockets and wake up the next day in a booze stinking heap on the floor, I end up with a mess of paper like Ilsa's letter in Casablanca, just not nearly as articulate.

Napkin-thulhu. I like that.

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