A long time ago I wrote a novel. Actually, I kind of wrote a few, but I really only finished one in the sense that it’s done and I wouldn’t change it. Not that it’s a great novel – but it’s pretty good. I like it. I’m proud of it. I’d let my kids read it – one of them has, and she seemed rather pleased.
I’ve let a few friends read it over the years and one of them loved it so much she had a vanity pressing done for my birthday a few years ago. It’s one of the nicest presents I’ve ever received. It means my book, which made it to a publisher’s ‘committee’ but didn’t come out the other side, gets to sit on my bookshelf. Every so often I pull it out and read it. Reading it as a book is infinitely far more pleasurable than reading it as a computer printout or on a monitor. I can take it to bed with me or read it on the bus.
Over the holidays I gave it to a friend to read – it’s a funny rite of passage in my friendships – I have to like you a lot to give you my book to read. I only have one copy, so I can’t entrust it to someone who might lose it.
She read it and liked it well enough – though she wasn’t blown away. That’s okay – being enraptured is not part of the rite of passage. When she returned it, I slipped it into my bag to bring home. And there it was when I went through the bag looking for something to occupy me on the long bus-ride out to my neck of the woods.
Yip, it’s pretty good, I like it. Soon, I was swept into another world. Not into the plot and the characters, though they are part of it, but into another me, the person I was when I wrote it, when I edited it, when I sent it off to agents. I remember the hush of my heart when it was tentatively accepted and it couldn’t be sent to another publisher. I remember the horror of maybe having to appear on talk shows to promote it. And the dreams of what I might do with all the lovely dollars I would get when it became a bestseller – and then I could sell the movie rights! Mostly I find myself lost in the times of my life so many of the vignettes took place. Though it is far from autobiographical – there is the wretched date with the boy who picked dead rabbits off the road and threw them behind my seat in his truck; my awe at being in CBGBs for the first time, certain that chap in the far corner was William Burroughs; trying to make sense of sexual politics in an era with no rules; living in New York in the scary 70’s and the discovery and loss of ‘true love.’
I think I’m ready to write another one. No matter if it gets through committee… a book you’ve written is a beloved part of yourself you will have forever. One is good. Two or three or four are even better.