Joe Wenderoth’s “Letters to Wendy’s”

Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s is about a man who is pathologically compelled to provide Wendy’s with near-daily feedback over the course of a year. The prose poems follow the fragile constitution of the unnamed narrator as he descends into near mania. Typical subjects include the mystifying nature of Biggies, Wendy’s as a concept, Biggies, Wendy as sexual conquest, Biggies, Wendy’s employees, and the world inside and outside of Wendy’s. Also Biggies.

The first letter betrays little of the bizarre musings yet to come. The narrator writes, “I especially like the ordering of the food. It asserts an altogether proper dominance.” However, the next letter hints at the unrest to come, “Today was awful . . . I can’t pin-point any single problem with the visit.” What follows next is the narrator’s desire to “spank Wendy’s white ass and fuck her hard.”

Wenderoth straddles the line between the profane and profound throughout Letters to Wendy’s. The saving grace through each of the more absurd letters is that they echo a sad sort of truth with which the reader sympathizes with. Anybody living in 21st century suburban America has at least a baseline understanding of corporate intrusion into everyday life and a suburban lethargic ennui. Wenderoth wrenches free a primal cathartic grunt.

With mounting anxiety, the narrator laments that he’ll never see Wendy’s employees “in their full porn depth.” He refers to other humans as simply “my species.” There is no release for the narrator, but not for lack of wanting. He feels real existential angst, “I persist, echo, only in order not to, and not to, and not to.” He recognizes the futility in his own writing, “The more I write, the more I feel I haven’t written.” The narrator confesses that he has “dominated nothing.”

The most shocking thing about Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s is that it isn’t shocking at all. It’s inevitable. H.L. Mencken writes that, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Wenderoth writes from the perspective of a man who has thought of nothing else. The results are uncomfortable and necessary. Letters to Wendy’s is the throat-clearing that precedes an honest conversation. If not that, then it’s the self-abasement of a mute orator that precedes true redemption.