NEWS FROM THE ROCK PILE

Or: How a Really Icky Christmas Newsletter Became a Cult Favorite

The LaRocques’ Christmas newsletter spoof, “News from the Rock Pile,” was born fifteen years ago when I read one of those family greetings that extolled the family members’ superior achievements – as well as their virtue, intelligence, beauty, and skill.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” I remarked to Paul, “if someone wrote a family newsletter in which all the news were bad instead of good, negative instead of positive – completely true but also completely humdrum, gross, silly, or weird.”

Paul, a wicked gleam in his eye, retired to his office for the rest of the day and, when he returned, he was carrying the first edition of our dreary newsletter.  We took it to the copy shop, had it transferred to festive paper with fancy borders and included it in our holiday greeting cards.

We were in no way prepared for the resounding welcome the newsletter met.  We received a second hand-drawn card from a cartoonist friend, who wrote: “That newsletter deserves TWO original cartoons!”  In the dozen years that followed, we were told that the Rock Piles were copied, passed around the office or among family and friends, and that people we didn’t know awaited our lackluster news.  We recently met someone who said: “Oh, you’re the ones with the hibernating lizard.” I even had an e-mail from thousands of miles away requesting my truly terrible but mythical tuna casserole recipe, which Paul had slammed in a joking aside.

In those dozen years of Rock Piles, only one person actually didn’t get it – a humorless relative who wrote that her family had known bad years, too, and suggested that we pray.  I called her, thinking she was kidding.  But she was not!  So I not only took her off the newsletter mailing list, I also took her out of my will.

Anyway, after a dozen years, we thought the newsletter had run its course, and we sent announcements that it had expired.  The reaction amazed us.  It must have been a tiny bit like Arthur Conan Doyle trying to kill off Sherlock Holmes and Holmes’ fans not allowing it.  (“As a result, I’m no longer going to observe Christmas,” wrote one reader.)

Sure, they were kidding, but we resumed the Rock Pile, anyway.  Serves ’em right. And I bet the LaRocques have the only writing and editing session in which one editor (Paul) says to the other (Paula): “No, don’t polish it!”  Or in which one editor proposes something that happened during the year and the other nixes it because it’s too positive or too interesting – in short, just not boring enough.

So here (minus the missing edition of 2008) are all the newsletters – in their tedious triviality.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you . . . .

But at least they’re true.


 

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