One-minute review: "One stifling summer afternoon last August, in the attic of a tiny stone house in Pennsylvania, I made a most interesting discovery: the shortest, cheapest method of inducing a nervous breakdown ever perfected. In this technique, the subject is placed in a sharply sloping attic heated to 340 degrees F., and given a mothproof closet known as the Jiffy-Cloz to assemble. The Jiffy-Cloz, procurable at any department store or neighborhood insane asylum, consists of half a dozen gigantic sheets of red cardboard, two plywood doors, a clothes rack, and a packet of staples. With these is included a set of instructions mimeographed in pale-violet ink, fruity with phrases like 'Pass section F through slot AA, taking care not to fold tabs behind washer (See Fig. 9).' The cardboard is so processed that as the subject struggles convulsively to force the staple through, it suddenly buckles, plunging the staple deep into his thumb."
Quote: “ ‘Now don’t start making excuses,’ she whined. ‘It’s just a simple cardboard toy. The directions are on the back.’ ”
Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan.