If you had told me when I was a sophomore in Nyack High School listening raptly to the doo-wop crooning of the Platters, the Moonglows, the Drifters, the Flamingos, the Robins (now that my memory has taken wing), the Jays, the Larks, the Crows, the Sparrows, the Orioles, etc., drinking Schaefer beer, driving a nearly defunct ‘49 Plymouth with a duotone muffler which made the car sound like “tough short,” as we used to say, when actually it had all the acceleration of a sea slug, shoplifting Playboy magazines, playing church-league basketball, and trying desperately to get past first base in another sport, that I would ever in my life start a sentence with the three words “My British publisher,” I would have choked on the king-sized Chesterfield I’d no doubt have been sneaking at the time. Nevertheless. My British publisher walked into my office about a year ago on a Friday, saw what I was up to, and said, “Aha–Friday–it’s rejection day.” I said, “You do this on Fridays in England, too?” He said yes–he thought everyone did. Maybe so, I say now, with Friday upon me. Maybe there’s some publishers’ racial unconscious, some archetypal influence, which drives editors all over town, all over the world, to reserve Fridays for rejections. It seems right, somehow.
So today it will be, perhaps, a chapter and proposal for a book about the ordeals and joys of raising deaf Mexican twins. A memoir by the guy who invented Oreos. A literary apologia for boxing. Another one for bullfighting. A coming-of-age novel set in Bergenfield. A history of hairstyles. The Twelve Most Common Dating mistakes. The Kidney: Miracle Organ. Felis Felis, a Tribute to the Cat. The Eleven Most Common Dating Mistakes. Friday–the day for undeniably impressive expertise. Authentic detail and deep insight. For obviously an accomplished and original writer. For this is not a worthwhile but a highly worthwhile submission. Assured, professional, and intelligent. Distinctive and energetic. Vivid, riveting, and viveting. Livid and ravenous, avidly venal, raveningly vapid. Unfortunately I’m sorry to say that I’m afraid that I regret to say that I wish I didn’t have to say that this may not be the right publisher to give this project the 110 percent enthusiasm it so clearly deserves.
The thing of it is that writers generally do mix in their life’s blood with the ink in their printers, they generally are passionate and hopeful about their projects, and many of them that one rejects really do have their strengths. I’ve been at this long enough to see books I’ve turned down spring up elsewhere with great success, and more power to them. But the submissions can sometimes seem overwhelming–and so can the fifty or sixty thousand books a year that grow out of them. I still read with the hope, every time, that what I’m looking at will take hold, make me forget I’m reading, take me off cruise control. When that little pilot light of hope is snuffed out inside any editor’s head, he or she should quit, probably. Maybe it’s the pitching and hyping, the flap copying and the catalogue copying, the Lotus Notes and budgeting meetings, the schmoozmeistering and placating which goes on all week that renders Fridays a good day for rejection.
Late today, I hope to get back on the train to Dover Plains and find when I get there that the guy from the Citgo service station has gotten the car keys I mailed him and has recharged our dead car’s battery. When I get to Massachusetts, I’ll go cross-country skiing down on Lake Buel, near our house, and try to recharge my own batteries. I thought it was the Getty station. Under that misunderstanding I kept calling a Getty Station and asking the man who answered could he please help me with this dead car. He said his boss wasn’t there right then, they didn’t do repairs anyway, and he didn’t think they could get to Dover Plains even if they did do repairs. This was strange, as the gas station and the train station are almost cheek-by-jowl. Call back in fifteen minutes, the man said, in his subcontinental accent. The boss would be back. He was at the hospital. He had hurt his thumb. I kept calling the place back, getting what I thought was a runaround, until the person who answered finally said, “I am the boss. We are the Getty station in Patterson. The place you want is the Citgo station. We are the Indian fellows eight miles south of there.” So then finally things began to go right.
On Monday I’ll set up my dentist appointments. Monday is the day for starting over.