Bookfraud is out on vacation until sometime in 2007. He has no access to e-mail, the Internet, computers, cell phones, telephones, cable TV, radio, newspapers, postcards, letters, pen, paper, or language. He will be unable to answer your inquiries until he returns, though he probably won’t.
If your request is in the matter of “writing” or “publishing,” please contact his “agent,” whose name is not “Murray,” “Ira,” or “Morty.” Do not contact said agent unless you are prepared to hand over a six-figure check or a Porsche.
If your request has to do with his job, just go to hell.
If your request has to do with this blog, feel free to make comments, but don’t expect a reply. If you are one of those jerkoffs who has been periodically spamming the comments section with gibberish in Italian, scopata voi stessi. (I think.)
If your matter is urgent, you have come to the wrong place.
I was fully prepared to devote an entry to a topic utterly revolting, infantile, and repulsive, but I thought, ah, what the hell, let’s try something different.
It has been a well-repeated (if not proven) factoid that the longer a couple is together, the more they look alike. This is probably why Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock are now Splitsville, though I not know if Pam dumped him because she worried about morphing into her husband one day, or if Kid Rock had nightmares that enormous mountains of silicone would one day form on his chest.
Also, if one does tend to look like their partner over time, I imagine that all the 22-yearold Russian supermodels with 80-year-old millionaire boyfriends are headed for a bad ending, though Viagra has already made their pretty lives pretty miserable.
If Wife started looking like me, but I would not leave her, although our sex life would be kaput, for I might start thinking I was making love to myself, and you shouldn’t make love to someone you hate.
Although our physical appearances are in no threat of converging, of late our creative states are similar, and sadly for the worst. I’m uninspired, she’s uninspired, and this makes for a lot of bad writing. Wife is in the desperate race to finish her novel before she gives birth in a few months, and I am in the desperate race to figure out what to do with my novel before I die, which may happen any day between now and 2060.
It’s not just that we’re unhappy with our respective output; it’s that we’re just not feeling the urge to create. Nothing I read is inspiring me, ditto for Wife, and about the only thing that moves either of us is music. Which we don’t compose.
(Wife can write circles around yours truly. For her, a slump means her writing is merely excellent; for me, merely excrement.)
This lack of creativity can come across in other unpleasant manifestations. Wife is angry at me for some supposed household infractions, including (but not limited to) lack of initiative in cleaning, cooking, conducting “research” for forthcoming baby, and other imagined and real offenses that all have to do with domesticity.
I can get rather pissy at Wife for her getting pissy at me, and the cycle of love-anger-love begins anew. Much of this anguish concerns the onset of Wife’s pregnancy, and the natural fears that motherhood will extinguish her career — if I don’t help out, she’ll be swamped and depressed, unable to ever write again.*
By all accounts of friends who have experienced the miracle of birth, writing fiction does not exactly take precedence when Junior is projectile vomiting while soiling through several thousand diapers a day. A parent’s free time is when baby is napping, and if you are lucky, you’ll be napping as well. When it comes to writing, the first six months — well, fuggitaboutit.
It is this certainty that should make both Wife and I writing fiends instead of neurotic masses of indecisive chum. Of course, we’ll get back into the swing of things, perhaps before retirement age.
Already, well before my child is born, I am envisioning a fatherly talk I’ll have with my son (ultrasound confirmed it’s a wiener). Such a talk often entails bromides on telling the truth, never getting into cars with strangers, or the unfathomable mysteries of sex, which, to be honest, I probably should not talk about, lest I ruin the kid’s sex life forever.
In any case, I will be direct, and loving, and fair: “Son, the world is full of great possibility. There is so much to learn, to see, to do. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something, and always believe in yourself. Always follow your heart — you can be a doctor, a musician, an artist, a scientist. Whatever you want, you can achieve, just as you put your mind to it.
But for God’s sakes, don’t become a fucking narcissistic neurotic writer like your old man. Please? I don’t want to kick your ass over this. Thank you. You’re a good son.”
*(This is where the disgusting part was supposed to be. I was going to write about my newfound spirit of assistance in the household arts to help Wife through this difficult stretch. Borrowing from an infamous Saturday Night Live skit from the 1970s that never made it to air, I was going to write about a great new dish that I could cook following the birth of our child. Of course, I speak of placenta. Placenta burgers, placenta stroganoff, placenta Wellington.
It’s what’s for dinner
And if you just can’t make it with placenta, you have to use what that SNL parody was selling: Placenta Helper! (“Wow, Mom, that’s great placenta!” “Oh, son, it’s not just placenta – it’s Placenta Helper!” “Can we have it again tomorrow?” “No, silly – you’ll have to wait for another brother or sister first!”)
What’s more disturbing is that there are people who actually keep and cook their placenta. Let’s eat!)
I present to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury yet more evidence that our nation is in decline simply because it does not read. This evidence, ironically enough, has been gathered from watching TV.
It story goes like this. Occasionally, I drag my sorry self to the health club, climb on a stationary bike, and begin a long trip to nowhere that will hopefully stave off until at least 2008 my inevitable knee implant. Since I sweat like a Boss Hogg in a steam room, it’s impossible for me to read as I spin the pedals. Small televisions are attached to the stationary bikes, and I’ll watch tube instead.
As perspiration drips off by the gallon, I often watch “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Not only does this show go far in confirming my smug sense of superiority over the American body politic, but it provides ample distraction from the pain I am enduring at the time, as well as the fact if a paramedic saw me, he’d drag me off and slap on the paddles and scream “Clear!”
Now, for anyone who has watched “Millionaire,” you will know that contestants answer multiple-choice questions that get harder as you progress. Not that I am saying I would win a million bucks, but I did observe the other day that contestants could not answer the following questions without help:
–Which of the following sections in a book is presented alphabetically? An appendix, index, table of contents, or footnotes?
–Where off Australia’s coast is the Great Barrier Reef? The NE, NW, SE, SW?
–Is Osama bin-Laudin not left-handed, 5-8, brown-eyed, or in need of a cane to walk?
(Now, I don’t know if you could answer all of these, but I’m guessing that you could answer at least one. If not, then I have seriously misjudged the readership here. Please, tell me you know the answer to the first question. Otherwise, I quit.)
It’s sexy time to read!
If you don’t know that an index appears at the back of a book, you may or not be stupid, but it definitely means you don’t read many books. Even if you’re not an insular, Ugly American, if you don’t know that the GBR is on Australia’s northeast coast, you haven’t cracked open an atlas awhile or don’t read accounts chronicling the reef’s decline.
And if one read newspapers, magazines surfed CNN.com or hell, even watched the television news once in a while, one would know 6-6 Osama is tall enough to be a power forward for the Al-Queda Buttholes.
What I found a bit sad was after not knowing what an index is, the contestant knew that the TV show “Full House” was set in San Francisco, for which I conjure images of a bathhouse in the Castro. (Which probably says something about myself that I shouldn’t have said. I mean, I’ve never been to a bathhouse. Not alone, I mean.)
Perhaps I am being a Pollyanna to believe The World Would Be a Better Place If People Read Books, but I’m thinking, these people are supposed to represent our great nation, they vote, they represent the brainpower that is supposed keep our nation an economic superpower. Let’s just quit now and succumb to the inevitable Asian takeover.
Oh, sure, I’m smug. In one edition of the greatest cartoon of all time, “Life in Hell,” tells us how to be an Unrecognized Genius. I can’t fully describe Matt Groening’s brilliance here; the cartoon has one of Groenig’s iconic man-rabbits sullenly watching a game show in which the contestant can’t figure out that Fred Flinstone says “Yabba dabba do!” The artist mumbles, “Idiot. Those prizes are rightfully mine.”
Like I say, I simply don’t want to ridicule people with low IQs. But as anybody who watched five minutes of Borat will know, many of my fellow Americans are, say, somewhat ignorant. Perhaps not all or even most of us, but enough to humiliate the nation as a whole.
Such people can’t find Canada on a map, don’t know the three branches of the federal government, and have more interest in baseball than the tragedies surrounding us, at home and abroad.
Says it all
It’s too bad we elected such a person twice to the Presidency. But making fun of such people, to paraphrase what a friend once, is like making fun of retarded people (which is what Borat does).
Like our attention-deficit plagued, probably dyslexic president, Americans don’t read much. And if they did, perhaps our great nation will not have to suffer through an inevitable economic collapse, or at least not humiliate ourselves on television. After all, most of the people who don’t know the answer to “Millionaire” questions are simply ignorant of the world. If they read, they wouldn’t come off as stupid.
Well, maybe not all of them. Like the woman who thought that the giant screens at rock concerts and sports stadiums was called a “SuperTron.”
We all know it’s “ToejamTron.”
I have just completed something that, for most people, would be a cause for celebration, or at least relief: I finished rewriting my novel, making it certifiable for resubmission.
But I’m not like most people, and in this case, the difference is not for the better. For while I restructured and rewrote and re-everything, I came away cutting 30 pages. Only 30 pages. For a 380-page book, that’s less than 8 percent. That works out to about 1 percent a month.
Wife, far wiser and pregnant than I shall ever be, noted quite correctly that size doesn’t always matter—even when less is more—and that 30 pages consigned to the dumpster, of itself, is not bad.
But if the dumpster is not full, the author is then sure constipated still. My expectations were cut about 50 or more pages: a lean mean fiction machine. In rejecting the novel, almost all the editors said what held them back was that they’d lost interest by the end—the plot was too confusing, and while they dug the characterizations and writing, it wasn’t enough to ultimately win them over.
(It is creepy to read letters that are about you but are addressed to someone else, in this case, my agent. You’re referred to in the third person — “Bookfraud left me a little cold”—as if you were a corpse being examined by medical examiners. )
I am missing the point, of course, which is if was the right 30 pages, I done well. Streamling is not my natural course of action: when in doubt, I’ll lard on characters, description, action, and exposition.
A lean mean writing machine
What is ironic about this was when I first sat down to write the novel, I feared that the premise was too vaporous upon which to build a book. Unconsciously, I went over the top in some places, as if filler would somehow confer “weightiness” to my labors. It’s always better to overwrite than underwrite, and if this was not a rationalization, it certainly gave me the thinnest of reasons to stack word upon word, building a tower that would surely fall if I were to remove a single sentence.
So I came away with an unwieldy door-stopper, some 450 pages of this novel, of which, I’d gather, at least 200 pages were crap. I rewrote and rewrote, until I got it down to the 330-page, sorta-kinda-perhaps streamlined machine of fiction that resides on my hard drive.
Mind you, I’m not expecting miracles. The book has been turned down about 20 times, and even though many of the rejection letters said the same thing, my agent was steadfast in insisting that I shouldn’t rewrite it. “It’s like giving Christmas gifts,” he said. “You have to find the right present for the right person.”
Sears probably had fewer returns on Dec. 26. To make matters worse, I’ve been given advice from another agent, who told me, in so many words, that I’m fucked. He told me that agents hate taking previously rejected work, don’t want to look like they’re “stealing” clients, and don’t resend work to editors who have rejected books in the first place.
Fair enough. But he told me directly that I should probably stick with my current agent, because nobody else is going to want to take me.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m at wit’s end. It makes me feel like the past eight months rewriting the damn thing is a waste, no matter how different it is. Add the fact I only pared 30 pages, and you get one seriously neurotic fellow whose idea of fun is curling into a fetal position more tightly than his yet-to-be born child is in right now.
And then I woke up
Rarely have I felt more at a loss about what to do. I’ve even written Miss Snark in the desperate hope she’ll answer my letter (sadly, she did. Advice: you’re fucked. Though said in a nice way.). I’m thinking about having a Bookfraud Burns the Novel Party, one last shot at merriment before the baby comes.
I realize that I have ventured far from the original thread of this post, but certain topics simply drive me nuts, and it is extremely hard to keep focused, and hell, let’s face it, I just wanted to get all this stuff off my chest.
Once you think you have this writing thing licked, it licks you right back. After eating at Taco Bell.
The scene: a snowy Christmas Eve. An exhausted writer has fallen asleep in the living room, head tucked in, a book on his chest. Suddenly, the writer hears a thundering noise, and wakes up to see a man in a red suit coming out of the chimney!
Damn! What the fuck?
Heh, heh, heh! Marry Christmas!
What? Who are you?
I’m Santa Claus!
Funny, you don’t look like him. I mean, you aren’t a fat white dude.
Oh, yes, heh, heh, heh! Marry Christmas!
Excuse me, I hate to interrupt, but Santa says, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!”
Oh, yes. You have to understand, I’m still learning the job. Christmas is not a big holiday in Mumbai.
Uh, where the fuck is Santa Claus?
I am Santa. Actually, sir, his job was downsized in a business process outsourcing move. Isn’t my English good?
Santa got outsourced? Get the fuck out of here.
I am not to leave just yet.
No, I meant, what happened to Santa?
Oh, yes. He had his priorities realigned with the good of stockholders. The elves, too. They were costing too much, threatening to strike and such. So they decided to outsource — they get twice the elf quality at half the cost!
And then Santa himself got outsourced?
Management saw what a great job we were doing, so Santa was replaced, too. We are Virtual Ex-Mas in Bangalore. We are the world’s leading business process outsourcing company for the holiday season.
No offense, but Santa is a jolly white dude. You know, Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas.
Do not let your inherent racism and cultural bias sway you. There are black Santas, white Santas, Latino Santas. And there are even Indian Santas
True, but I didn’t think Christianity had many adherents in India.
Where to look for work
It doesn’t. However, Christmas is celebrated in my native land by Christians and non-Christians alike. Plus, I deliver all the toys to the world’s homes at a fraction of the cost of your white Santa. Marry Christmas! Heh, heh, heh!
What happened to the elves? What happened to Santa?
Oh, I understand the elves found fulfilling positions at Wal-Mart Stores. Santa, sadly, was fired from his job of pretending to be himself at Macy’s Department Store.
I can’t believe they outsourced Santa.
Well, it first started when they started buying Santa’s red suit from Bangladesh. That meant Mrs. Claus had to find a new job, and I understand now that she’s an extremely well-paid adult entertainer living in Los Angeles.
I’m going to vomit.
Her videos are top sellers—there are a lot of people who find Mrs Claus very enjoyable. I do understand she is tested twice a month for disease.
Santa outsourced — how could it happen?
It was a matter of time, Mr. Bookfraud. The sleigh was made in China, the reindeer are from Vietnam, and the candy canes are made in the Philippines.
So what the hell are you doing here?
Let me check my list here…it says, “Bookfraud: naughty, and angry to boot. Plus, he’s a writer. Not even a lump of coal.” Sorry.
Well, I never get anything for Christmas. But can you finish my novel for me?
That was a joke, Santa.
I also have a message for you.
It reads, “Dear Dr. Bookfraud: given the state of the world economy, and given trends in publishing and literature, you should forsake your quixotic quest of publishing your novel and perhaps focus your energies on more prosaic things, such as watching the Cubs and masturbating.”
What the hell does that mean?
It means that all creative pursuits like people trying to write novels in their spare time would be better served by having someone else do it for them.
I don’t understand.
Let me put it this way (Isn’t that how you say it?). You Americans are already are losing the literature battle, Mr. Bookfraud. We’ve got more English-speaking people in India than you have in the United States. And look at how many great novels in English that have come out of India in the past 20, 25 years. It’s nothing to snooze at!
Americans want too much money for writing — why pay an unproven writer a $500,000 advance for a novel when you could outsource it for one-tenth that amount? You should outsource your novel overseas.
But there’s a difference between being American or English and writing in English. It’s hard to write about life in America if you’ve never been here.
What are you talking about! We watch “Friends”! We watch “American Idol”! We watch “The Facts of Life”!
Look, Santa, I may lose my regular, 9-to-5 job to somebody in a cubicle farm a million miles away. But you can’t replace creativity. You can’t make someone a brilliant writer just by paying them.
I don’t understand. Everything can be outsourced! Writing is a repetitive, rules-based process that a young man can do on the cheap. It is inevitable, Mr. Bookfraud. There are several best-selling authors who already send their work to us. Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, and all of chick-lit is written in India.
You know, you’re right. Go ahead and write all of the fiction for us.
Macy’s latest hire
Um…you mean that?
Yes! Because I don’t get paid for doing this, anyway! Because I have lost several years of my life and mental health in pursuit of writing fiction! Because I would gladly pay for some stranger to get my goddamn life’s work in print if I could, if I could also transport all the suffering I’ve endured for it! Do you know what I’m talking about?
I can understand why you might be upset at losing your job, however—
No! No! It’s not that! You can’t outsource creativity, you buffoon! Like Einstein said, “If I had not been born, somebody would have discovered relativity, but if Beethoven had not been born, there would have never been a Ninth Symphony.”
Please, do not get hostile because the world’s economic forces are turning inevitably against your nation. I must go now. I have to deliver a teddy-bear sweater to somebody named “Dick Cheney.”
Fine, do what you have to do. But it’s obvious that your company has a long way to go in this outsourcing Santa Claus deal.
Why is this?
I’m Jewish. And Santa doesn’t visit Jews.
Oh. I did not know this. I apologize…uh, may I ask you something?
What’s a Jew?
I’ve discovered the reason why I’m not a better writer. It’s antibiotics.
Let us start with the Christmas season and the personal pain I feel during it. Not the mental kind of anguish, with drunken fathers pissing on the X-Mas tree on the ABC Movie of the Week or choking on Aunt Bertha’s Fruitcake of Death. It is not the financial pain over paying $500 for Junior’s MegaManPlayStationTalkingAnusSuperDoll or the legal woes when you’re arrested for assault after mugging an old lady over a parking spot.
(One of the great things about being Jewish is that one doesn’t have to fret over such Christmas evils, and if there ever was a Festival of Lights that approached these holiday dramatics, I daresay it was only because somebody tried lighting the Christmas Bush instead of a menorah.)
My pain is quite literal. Read one or more of my entries, and you may detect the bitching in regards to my knees. These oft-injured joints have put at least two orthopedic surgeons’ children through Harvard, and more recently, I have had trouble with my back, which twisted into something resembling an advanced knot from the Boy Scout Handbook.
The dry, cold weather only exacerbates my aches and pains, and if there was ever a bright spot to global warming, it’s that my knees petrify into stalagmites in January instead of November.
Feel my pain
Among the younger set in my cohort of friends (those youngsters under 40) my various aches and pains are a standing punchline. I’m old, cranky, and curmudgeonly. I can’t play basketball or tennis; forget that hike into the mountains with an incline over 3 degrees high or 15 minutes long. I injured my knees many years ago, and my back only a few years ago, and I all roll this into my inevitable decline into decreptitude.
Getting old is not that interesting, as Groucho Marx once said: all you have do is live long enough. While aging brings wisdom and patience to some, it just makes me neurotic, as in, I’m too old to be having my first child, and too old to publish my first novel. The former will happen in several months, and the latter may not happen ever.
But my aches and pains are simply that; they are not life-threatening diseases. For slackers like myself, modern medicine is the worst enemy of art. Even though I may not admit it, subconsciously I figure that I will live until I’m 70 or 80. Though I’ll probably be a blubbering fool by then, there’s plenty of gas left in the tank to waste.
Most of history did not afford this luxury of assumption. You made it past 40 and you were doing pretty good. This is where penicillin comes in. I wonder how I would have lived in the days before modern medicine, for it is antibiotics that combat the 19th Century’s favorite disease: tuberculosis.
Everybody and their mom died of TB back when, and it seemed half of them were famous writers. Keats plotzed dead from tuberculosis at 25. Emily Bronte also succumbed to tuberculosis at 30; her sister Charlotte wasn’t 40. Chekov kicked from consumption, as did George Orwell (and in the 1940s). Neither man was yet 50.
Thanks to antibiotics, an American is more likely to die today from laughing himself to death than from most bacterial infections, and though TB still exists (and kills millions worldwide) , your typical American can reasonably expect to make it to 70 without coughing up blood or spending one’s final weeks at a sanatorium.
And, of course, Chekhov
If I had that figurative Sword of Damocles hanging over my head, I might have more, say, urgency in writing. If the consumption was, well, consuming me, I might not obsess about other people’s successes or my failures. I might not waste time thinking about whether or not TomKat’s baby will grow up slightly fucked up or completely fucked up. If I were sick, or if reaching 70 was considered a miracle, I would feel the urgent need to write to create, put all of my other concerns aside, and devote my time, energy and soul to writing.
Damn mold ruined everything.
Now excuse me while I go watch the end of the Bears game.