The Help Desk: Advice on adopting the perfect muse

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

I am a novelist. Some have called me the novelist, but their approval means nothing to me. Likewise their approbation. But I age, as we all do, and, as we all do, I crave the succor of youth. I have decided to adopt a child, that I may learn the ways of the youth from him and instill that vigor into my life’s work, my novels. Obviously, I should not acquire an American child because America has become a rogue nation, a palsied old nag that barely resembles its former mustang-self. From what nation should I adopt this child, that I may use him as a lens to acquire a global perspective on the uselessness of youth?

Jonathan, America

Dear Jonathan,

Why settle for an orphan from Asia or Afghanistan when you could harvest child parts from a healthy spread of broken countries and stuff them into the resentful muse of your choice for a truly tortured look at adolescence? Fifteen of the 20 poorest countries in the world are found in Africa and — happy coincidence! — you can’t be ignorant of America’s awkward relationship with its black citizens. Wouldn’t it be a triumph if you, a white man (educated guess), could write with earned authority on the plight of black men in America for a primarily white audience?

Begin by acquiring a sickly child from a country like Mozambique. It’s important that you don’t purchase the child outright, given our country’s historical use of the continent as a fire sale for cheap labor. Instead, try sensitively trading the child’s guardians a signed copy of your latest masterpiece in exchange for parental rights. If they seem to have emotions for the child, throw in a handful of cigarettes or a bottle of multivitamins.

From there, it’s a simple dance to purchase a few extra parts — a pancreas from Iraq, kidneys from China, a liver from somewhere truly exotic, like the corpse of a sober Bostonian.

There. Now you have crafted your perfect resentful muse. Add him to your family’s cell phone plan, create him a Twitter account and pose him by your writing desk. Ask him probing questions about his feelings for you, the world. The sound of his testicles dropping will provide the backdrop to your next best masterpiece.