Page 50 - Vol. VI #10
P. 50

Selling a Book (continued from preceding page) “Let me see if she’s in.”
me, and for all I’ve done while under the influence, I am far from a likeable guy. If nothing else, my trip to hell and back has given me some insight into the person I hope never to become again.
 As if he wouldn’t know. Of course she’s in, but he has to see if she wants to take the call. A couple seconds later he comes back on the line.
So it’s a tell-all.
“She just stepped out,” he says. “May I ask what this is in regard to?”
Not a confession, exactly, but something along those lines, and if I were a celebrity the name recognition alone would make my book an instant best seller, good writing be damned. But I’m just your regular, run-of-the-mill alcoholic-addict who happens to have had an often sad, turbulent family life. Why would anybody care to hear about that? In the past, as I was taught in the writing workshops I took in college, I’ve tried to be conscious of audience and how they might perceive my work. I worried about upsetting people, having them slap my book closed before they finished reading it, and in my attempt to please I crossed
“Liza’s my agent,” I tell him. “She placed three of my books, but we haven’t talked in practically a decade. I’ve had some personal troubles. Would you please check again and see if she’s come back?”
I expect him to hang up, but I think he senses the dis- tress in my voice and takes pity on me. Maybe he’s a struggling writer himself. Many agent assistants are, that or they aspire to be agents themselves.
“Hang on,” he says.
out words, paragraphs, even whole pages, hoping to eliminate whatever I suspected might offend some- body. But with this book, I don’t concern myself with any of that. If the truth as I experienced it is ugly and depressing, as addiction, suicide and insanity typically are, then that’s the way it should be written. My job is only to be honest.
A good minute or so passes, but it’s worth the wait. She picks up.
“James,” she says. She calls me James. I’d forgotten that. “How are you? It’s been so long. What’re you up to these days? Still writing?”
I also don’t tell the story in chronological order, which confuses some readers, including my agent’s assistant. After two months, when I don’t hear back from Liza,
I give her a call. The assistant connects us right away this time. We go through the motions of a little small talk, but I’m not good at that sort of thing, and I can’t stand the not-knowing, so I get quickly to the point.
“I’m doing all right,” I say. “I had some health issues but I’m better now. And I have a new book. I’m won- dering if you could....”
“Absolutely,” she says. “Listen, I’m on another line. Just send it along and I’ll get right back to you. It was great talking.”
She hangs up before I can say goodbye. This, I think, is not a good sign, but I’m appreciative that she’s at least giving me another shot. I box the book up and take it to the post office that same day. This is before every- thing is sent by attachment via email.
“So,” I say, “what’d you think?” She pauses.
I’m a year sober when I begin my fourth book, and excluding time lost to a six-month relapse, it takes
me close to three years to finish a lean, two-hundred page manuscript. It is not another novel. This one is a memoir and the words do not come easy. The material is all true and dear to my heart and emotionally drain- ing to remember what I would prefer to forget. In the remembering I’m obliged to return to places, people and things for which I have considerable regret, guilt and remorse. But there is no way around it. I feel com- pelled to face the past head-on as I best recall and un- derstand it before I’m able to move beyond it. Unlike fiction, there is nowhere in this story for me to hide.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “but my assistant didn’t feel it held together.”
I can’t make stuff up. I can’t change things around to make my narrator likeable, because the narrator is
“Liza,” I say, “how long have we known each other? When I send you something, I expect you to read it. You. Not throw it off on your assistant.”
(continued on page 67)
“Your assistant?”
“He’s a very smart young man. I trust his judgement. We plan to make him a junior agent here and he needs experience in decision-making.”
“On me?” I say. “I’m not some goddamn guinea pig.” “Calm down,” she says.
I close my eyes. I open them. I take a deep breath.

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