The Spam Letters
By Jonathan Land (No Starch Press, 336 pages)
Spam, a term defined by Hormel, expanded by Monty Python and finally drowned in the wading pool of ubiquity by the mongers of penis enlargement schemes, has become the cockroach of the modern digital experience. Who among us hasn't wished for some kind of revenge against the perpetrators of this scourge? One who has found such a mode of retaliation is Jonathan Land. In this humorous collection of e-mails, the reader is invited to share a bit of his payback vicariously. Land, an occasional collaborator with collage-music mainstay Negativland, brings an incisive wit and acerbic irony to the task of actually responding to common spam e-mails. In his reply to a "free Florida vacation" email, Land adopts the persona of a "Vincent Garibaldi," and gives the spammer an not-so-subtle instruction to give the "vacation" to an associate of his that had stolen some "wire hangers ... made of the purest Columbian wire," and an invective to send pictures of the "award ceremony" to him. Unsurprisingly, the funniest section is the one that tackles the problem of pornographic spam. In response to the plea of Kathy, who claims to be putting herself through college by posting pictures of herself and her friends in compromising positions, Land responds as a "World Class Pornographer" who wants to help her by making her the host of a new show for the Oxygen Network called Chicken Soup for Your Hole. An e-mail offering up video of a girl engaging in unnatural acts with farm animals also gets an answer from "Jonathan Land," an animal psychologist from the ASPCA who also provides a helpful stick-figure diagram illustrating the right and wrong ways to mount a horse. Lowbrow at times, but consistently funny, this book is best read in small, random bits. If you don't like it, you can always reply with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.