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Missives in Action

Letters from A Nut

Letters from a Nut
By Ted L. Nancy
Avon Books; 1997; 200 pp., $15



Notes from the mad mail man

By Mary Spicuzza

EVER HAD THE URGE to write to M&M/Mars with ideas for new candy bars? Drop a few lines to pharmaceutical companies looking for the person who comes up with names like Triaminicin and Gyne-Lotrimin? Or maybe seek out the proper way to exit stadium seats--derriere or crotch towards other fans sitting nearby--from the companies who manufacture them?

Anyone with a burning desire to impose their opinions on strangers will bask in the intravenous glory of the letters of Ted L. Nancy. This mystery man's collection of absurd correspondences has recently been published into a book, titled Letters from A Nut.

Jerry Seinfeld's introduction explains that the prime-time comedian found a stack of Nancy's letters on a friend's coffee table while watching a Jerry Lewis Telethon. Seinfeld raves about Nancy's unique ability to become involved in--or create--the most ridiculous situations. That, combined with a near-religious dedication to writing officials to tell them about his life, makes for a rollicking good read.

The letters are arranged into vague categories. Sections include odd requests for special travel plans, crazy pitches to companies as a striving entrepreneur and ridiculous thank you notes.

Most of Nancy's predicaments are completely absurd. In one letter he writes Greyhound explaining that, due to the time constraints of his traveling theater troupe, he will be riding the bus dressed as a giant stick of butter. Nancy also asks an Arizona resort whether it has the supplies to deal with his condition as a level-four bed wetter, add contacts American Hawaiian Cruises seeking accommodations for traveling pals suffering from Tourette syndrome.

Nancy's missives really are only half of the entertainment of the book. The very sincere responses on company letterheads prove how silly people can look when life is taken too seriously. One hotel writes with gushing apologies because it couldn't find his lost tooth. Star magazine gently declines Nancy's offers to send photographs of a corn on his foot that resembles the star of Coach or Ellen Degeneres at first glance.

As Seinfeld explains, Ted Nancy is like most people in that "We all have peculiar problems and often have to deal with faceless strangers to resolve them." Nancy just takes it to extremes.

Some have speculated that Seinfeld himself wrote the letters, following in the tradition of Father Guido Sarducci, who wrote similar notes to famous people under a pen name in The Lazlo Letters.

Yet the idea of an anonymous neurotic compulsively writing letters to the most random people--from Bon Ami cleanser to the King of the Tonga Islands--has even more charm.

Anyone who sits down to read the book cover to cover will probably end up ripping it to shreds in annoyance. These letters are best enjoyed read out loud, just a few at a time, to friends who appreciate the absurd.

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From the Nov. 6-12, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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