A Fan to Mariah Carey, December 15th, 1994


What's really ingenious is that "You" could also be "My Two Front Teeth"

Dear Ms. Carey,

As a long-time admirer of yours, I must say that you have really outdone yourself with your new holiday single, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” As a Philosophy professor at New York University, I have found that not only is the music upbeat and joyful, but the lyrics are simply food for the mind. Brava, you groundbreaking artiste.

The music, to me, evokes the sort of lovely, joyous harmonies of Italian peasant festival songs. I’m sure these enchanting folk melodies are a passion of yours as well as mine. The third stanza reminds me of the sort of musical joyride that is the early Mozart canon. The lightness of the piano harmony practically waltzes across the running bass. What a story they tell! Why, I can almost hear the Viennese crowds chanting out your name and showering you with roses as you complete such a beautiful aria. Maria Callas? Who needs her?

And the lyrics, oh my, the lyrics. I’m surely not flattering you when I say that such poetry has not been written in the West until now. To compare “I just want you for my own; more than you could ever know” with Ovid or Dante would simply debase you. The issues explored in your song are so haunting, so jarring, that upon first hearing them I was literally jolted from my seat. The veiled references to the end of the Soviet Union, the intense futility of human endeavor, and most wonderfully, the open-endedness of it all. Will you ever find this “You,” this ideal love, this green light across the water? Judging from the subtle sadness of your performance, I dare say you will not. Truly astounding.

Your #1 biggest fan in the whole wide world,

Dr. William Thrackmore Fothergill, Theo. W Ghenk Professor of Philosophy, New York University


Upon receiving this letter, Mariah Carey immediately tried googling Maria Callas, only to discover that Google had not been invented yet. With no other reliable method for obtaining information, she did what people had to do for centuries before the invention of the search engine: chuckle knowingly as if they understood.

The knowing chuckle has been the response to Dr. Fothergill’s words 85% of the time for the past 32 years, based on his calculations, which are collected in his memoir, Childhood Allusions. While some wonder how anyone can sustain contact with him for an extended period of time, Fothergill’s wife, Mrs. Edna Fothergill, says she has learned to “smile and kind of wince like I understand what he’s saying and commiserate, then try and change the subject as quickly as possible.”

Despite these setbacks, Fothergill feels it is his duty to write fan mail and congratulate the talented men and women like Mariah Carey who bring light into the darkness of human life, “by reminding us of our commonalities…the folly of desire, the essential human need for intimacy with another person, which can never truly be achieved.” In 2011, he wrote to Justin Bieber, comparing “Baby” to Puccini’s “E lucevan le stelle.”

You can go google that now.


1 Comment

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One response to “A Fan to Mariah Carey, December 15th, 1994

  1. Julie

    A truly erudite paean to our favorite holiday song.

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