Thursday, August 26, 2004

I know this quote has been bandied about by hallmark and writer's support groups for a long time, but I love's only part of a letter by Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille:

"Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Now, something I wrote for McSweeney's "Open Letter" series which the editor told me he was "tempted by" but ultimately wanted to opt for more variety, since they'd published a few on publishing.

Open Letter to the publishers who didn't "fall in love" with my book:

Jesus, who's talking about love? We haven't even met! I mean, just because you think you know me now that you've read 328 pages of the millions that are still burning inside me doesn't give you the right to assume all this intimacy crap between us. I'm no fool. I know how hard it is to really fall in love. I've only actually ever been in love once. The first “fake” time I thought I was in love was, you know, that bizarre college kind where you mistake sex for love because your self-esteem is so low that you don't have the skills yet to really distinguish between having calls returned and lifelong, undying commitment. Oh yes, I've been there my friends, and I don't need your chintzy reminders to keep me from stumbling over that cow-patty again.

While we're on this topic, what even qualifies you to fall in love with my book? I would've settled for inspiring a strong pleasant feeling, or a kind of benevolence that made you feel hopeful about the future of things. Because I feel for you in your job where it's mostly long hours and bad news—people are always talking about how publishing is really in a crisis this time, and I'm thinking to myself, shit, it sucks to work in crisis mode. I speak from experience, believe me. A writer's life is all about crisis, you know. You draw from life in order to write, in fact, like those days where all the appliances in your house quit on you at once, or like when you write a check to Office Depot for a package of those colorful gel pens and another ream of paper only to find out that your account is overdrawn. Or like in my book, the one that’s put this strain between us, there's a major crisis at the heart of my book, a really rather good crisis, I think, that is a fairly ingenious variation on one of the five or six main storylines that exist, and then there are little mini-crises along the way that build up to the major crisis. So, while I am not so certain you are qualified to be talking about love, I'm pretty certain I can claim to be an expert on crisis.

But back to the issue of falling in love. I certainly appreciated your ideas, I mean, insofar as they were your opinions and you know, my mother always told me you can't argue with opinions because they're just what people think and feel. So I'll file away your opinion about how the premise isn't plausible—even though the book is, you know, fiction, meaning I made it up and didn't borrow it from reality or anything, and I'll certainly stay open to the idea that my book sort of straddles genres that you don't have the imprints for if you'll do me just one little favor. I mean, I figure if you're willing to address a topic as weighty as love, you won't mind my opinion on this whole matter: falling in love is for people with hearts.

So thanks for listening; I hope I didn’t get too harsh and I hope you get this issue all sorted out soon. I know this really great therapist if you have further trouble. I’m sure you’ll find a really great book that will skyrocket to the bestseller list and get you that promotion you totally deserve. And maybe then, when you’re in your new penthouse office with your cute assistant and your planner all booked full of appointments with up and coming authors, you won’t need love anymore.


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