Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joys of Hell, IV

A velvet-clad rejection sledgehammer from Jessica at Bookends on 3/8:

"Thank you so much for giving BookEnds a chance to consider your work. While I found your query intriguing I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic to ask for more at this time. As I’m sure you know, publishing is a subjective business and I’m sure there’s another agent out there better suited to your work. I wish you the best of luck and the greatest success."

LESSON: For you really bad romance writers, here's a line for your next  really bad novel (Feel free to plagiarize): "She looked at him with disdain in her eyes--the kind of disdain you might see in a dog's eyes when you reach into your coat pocket for a doggie treat, only to realize they're all gone, and so you pull your empty hand out and, instead of giving the mutt the treat he's already slobbering over, you offer up instead a lame pat on the head--and, after slapping him viciously on the cheek of his face, as opposed to the one on his ass, she snarled, 'Are you sufficiently enthusiastic to ask for more at this time?'"

But, there's some good news, too: a couple of local presses, Ooligan and Tin House Books, have said they'd like to see a partial manuscript, so I'm sending them the first fifty pages. Oh, the joy, the joy! But, let's not get ahead of ourselves--and why am I suddenly writing in the plural form, as if you're in this Hell with me? Stay tuned ....

A Weirdosity of Stupendous Magnitude

Over twenty years ago I wrote “Marlene,” a short story, and recently I resurrected it from its file-cabinet grave, brushed off the dust, “fiddled” with it a bit, changed the title to “Leghorn Love,” and posted it as the very first entry of my blog. Okay, nothing weird so far about that, right?—except perhaps my insecurity, how I felt compelled to once again “fiddle” with a piece that had been, back in the day, fiddled ad nauseam in order to, you know, “make it better.” Okay, enough about my insecurity.

Anyway, Lori, my musically astute—and, I’m quickly learning, literarily astute, as well—neighbor read the story on my blog and emailed me, commenting she liked the story but, she observed, it seemed to be missing a scene toward the end, between the time Larry, the protagonist, makes a phone call to Marlene, the antagonist, and the concluding (and brilliantly conceived!) scene. She even envisioned a few ideas (involving a few beers, etc.) as to how one might fill in the allegedly missing scene.

Well, I attributed her “missing scene” as a sign of her over-active imagination, or a misreading or misinterpretation. I even suggested she try writing a story of her own to, you know, give her imagination a proper cathartic workout. There was, I knew, no missing scene at all. I must confess, however, that I was so sure of being correct in the matter that I didn’t bother checking the blog and seeing for myself. And you know the old adage: Pride goeth before a fall.

I was going to read the story that Saturday at our monthly “emotive” gathering, comprised of a bunch of crazy neighbors and friends of various artistic backgrounds, Lori among them. (she's a fantastic singer of classical music). It was to be hosted by another neighbor, Ricardo, an escapee from a Columbian mental asylum—but that’s another story.

So, having just “fiddled” with the story for my blog, I now had to “fiddle” with it for the reading. I revised it on a Word document and, wanting the version on my blog to be identical, copied the Word version to my blog. I did this several times, going back and forth between Word and blog. When I read the Word version Saturday evening, I noted the end didn’t seem right. For one thing, a line was repeated. This should have been a head’s-up about the possibility I’d screwed up the blog version.

Anyway, Lori commented [either that night or the following day, I’m not sure which, and I attribute this lapse of memory to the cheapness of Ricardo’s wine] that I had added the “missing scene,” the one she had noted a few days before on my blog. She even said, I believe, that I'd incorporated some of her imaginings. I politely disagreed, stating the scene had been in the original story, written over twenty years ago and so, therefore, it was in the blog, too, just as it was included in the Word version.

Yes, this is a classic example of faulty logic and, yes, this whole thing is also getting very confusing.

To conclude: As you have, I’m sure, already surmised, Lori was right. In all my going back and forth between blog and Word, I had somehow omitted the scene on my blog.

The weirdosity is this: Lori’s “imagined scene”—that is, what she envisioned with the beer, etc.,—matched up darn well with what I’d originally written a long, long time ago.

This fact should be a really, really scary thing for Lori: She thinks like me!

And I've learned the hazards of excessive fiddling (which I'll ignore, thank you very much). Lori said when Beethoven composed, he did so rather manically, with lots of visions and revisions and revisions of revisions ("before the taking of a toast and tea"?); with Mozart, though, an inviolate epiphany in the form of a complete symphony would spring from his fertile mind. I hate him, and I'm sure you do, too. Most writers, I believe, are Beethoven's.