Literature, a mass market phenomenon, is usually thought of as an academic pursuit, tied to fusty rooms in carpeted credential-mill rooms in climate-controlled comfort, but there is a little-known legacy that ties today’s feted authors to their more middle-brow antecedents. A fairly substantial number of them, unbeknowst to all but a few intrepid members of the literary press, are actually Bottle-Drive leaders. Yes, the kinds of 5 cent bottle drives you see all over the more suburban and rural haunts of the post-expansion US, the ones that are never seemingly manned by their ostensible purveyors, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other Jugend-Bund kid inculcation schemes.
The history, and it is indeed a rich one, goes back to George Plimpton, who used his undeserved fame as a an author/bon vivant to inveigle his socialite friends to give back to the communities they were so fond of abusing and exploiting by giving their soda pop cans to his son’s Troop. The conversations poolside were so rich in 1 cent deposit details that the virus of bottle-drive funding became a steadily more literary thing, passed around America’s swanky lit cocktail parties like an unannounced competition for elite college placement of lit kids. Everybody, it seemed, wanted to helm a Bottle Drive, from Mattheisson to Mary McCarthy to Erica Jong to the inimitable Phillip Roth, who set an suspicious Long Island Bottle Drive record he commandeered for his putative nephew, actually just a neighborhood kid.
Today’s generation of authors and PEN-awardee busybodies have proven to be worthy carriers of this torch, having extended and refined this pro-bono literary- Scouting alliance into this new generation of Big Name Writers. George Saunders made poolsides rock with the revelation of his software innovations that tracked his niece’s winning techniques for placing heart-tugging animal signs next to the Central New York bins. Donna Tartt was actually sued by a rival Bottle-Drive grandee who objected, in court, to her “blatant and willful misappropriation of intimidating Bread Loaf interrogation techniques” in promoting her god-daughter’s overflowing collection to the detriment of her crosstown rival’s less alluring campaign.
Haven’t heard from your favorite Big-Think in author in a while, like, say Richard Powers, David Shields, Ann Beattie, or Stacy Schiff? Chances are they have become so caught up in their adoptive Bottle-Drive planning and operations, looking after every week’s haul through sophisticated accounting and curatorial programs, that they are leaving the practice of literary art-making behind, until they can be satisfied that have, indeed, given enough back to the poor working and nonworking people of this fading empire through vigilant, hortatory, moral suasion via adult supervision of youth-powered Bottle-Drive community drives.
Help your town’s youth, and the Big-Think writers of today’s America out, and drop your somewhat sticky can of Diet Ginger Fab off at one of your covertly-monitored-by a-tenured author Bottle-Drive collection site today.