Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Dope

"So I bought this novel recently: a foreign publisher gave me a tip, long story short, the agent and the author and me, it's one of those love-at-first-sight things..." --Mar. 24, 2005

Hi, it's me. Max.

Long ago and in a land far, far away, I wrote in this space about editing a novel I'd acquired, and of the singular satisfactions that came from that experience. Of the dozens of posts I wrote during the six or seven months of BookAngst 101, "What makes it all worthwhile" was my favorite, the one that best captured the myriad rewards that the editorial life can provide when the stars allign.

It seemed to strike a nerve with readers too--perhaps because it was about the joy of the process, as opposed (for once) to the innumerable frustrations and disappointments experienced so frequently on all sides of the writing/publishing/bookselling universe. Or maybe it was because it was a story with a happy ending. An editor fairly in awe of his talented author, and grateful to have been granted such access and trust; an author, it might be inferred, who gets the editor she deserves.

Whatever the case, that "report" seems to have represented the high-water mark in the short, happy life of Mad Max Perkins. I gauge this both by the nature of the comments that it elicited, and by the fact that so many of you expressed interest in finding out more about the author and the book.

That interest was both gratifying and encouraging; for me it had the effect of making a little bit less preposterous the preposterous notion that's at the core of every author/editor partnership. Not just that we might be able to make a great book, but also that, somehow, this great book might wind up being embraced to some reasonable degree beyond the walls of our little two-seat incubator.

* * *
Ten months later, that book now exists. It's got a handsome cover, blurbs from a number of generous authors whose work I admire, and handful of pre-pub reviews (including a starred Kirkus, sez he proudly). A second printing is already in the works. Sometime in the next week or two, I'm going to have the experience of walking into a bookstore and seeing this book "live" for the very first time. (A special feeling, that.) One thing that I know for sure: if the books aren't where I want them to be when I arrive, they'll be there by the time I leave. Another thing: I'll linger in a semi-predatory fashion. On two prior such occasions that I know about for sure, my innocent comments to a book-in-hand browser have resulted in confirmed, watched-'em-all-the-way-to-the-cash-register sales. I'll be gunning for more this time around.

* * *
Back in March, a lot of people sent me comments to the effect of

Wow. I want to read this book. How are we going to know to run out and get it when it hits the shelves?

If you're still interested? The novel--DOPE--goes on sale any day now. The author--Sara Gran--has a website, and a blog, and two previous novels. And an editor who, though he should know better, can't help but be excited about what might unfold in the weeks ahead.

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."