No Pressure

“No pressure, Elie,” began the skeleton, launching into one of the archly meta passages that any prudent editor would immediately prune from this already over 600 page manuscript, “but, if you don’t start selling at least some of these pages, getting some of it in print, compiling a short published stack you can send to prospective literary agents, samples that will light up those little 20% dollar signs in their shrewd, shiny eyes, you’re pretty much done.  

“Not just as a writer, but as a person, I would say,” he said.  

Sure you would say that, no skin off your nose, now that you’re a skeleton. You know, dad, every time I hear the phrase ‘no skin off my nose’ I shudder, having skin, like you did, scalpeled from my nose twice, crudely covered by grafted skin from behind my ear.  I’m long overdue for the next slice, I’m afraid, on the other side of my nose.

“Well, none of us are without imperfections,” said the skeleton in another phrase destined for the cutting room floor.   “But you realize, I mean, I’m pretty sure you understand how insane your current plan is.  I don’t mean insane like totally mad, I mean it in the kinder, gentler sense of a laughably outlandish long-shot.  

“Of course, you can argue that from time to time you can move a reader, get a wheezy chuckle, that you’ve worked on your craft for decades, gotten pretty good at choosing words that mean exactly what you want to say.”  

And not wasting too much of the reader’s time.  

“Well, the reader of this particular selection might disagree, but anyway, the point is, no matter how well you might write– nobody but a madman expects to live and support himself by writing alone. I would argue that you’re too smart to have such an idiotic plan.”

Deft compliment/bitch slap, dad.   I’d agree with you if that was the whole plan.  It is one piece, one small piece.  You see, to tell you the truth, the writing is the smallest part of the plan.  

“Do tell,” said the skeleton.  

You’d like that, wouldn’t you?  

“Look, Elie, it’s no skin off the front of my skull,” said the skeleton. “I’m just trying to be helpful.  Most writers have another line of work they do to pay the bills, that’s all I’m saying.  Your boy Kafka worked in a bank, wrote all night, every night once he got home. Well, maybe Kafka’s not the best example, he died in a sanitarium, I think, worked himself to death and was completely unknown as a great writer in his lifetime.  

“How about Frederick Exley, that was a hell of a book, that chronicle of ‘the long malaise that was my life’… well, maybe he wasn’t the best example either, except maybe as a cautionary tale.  Look at this from your Wikipedia:

In 1961 Exley received a provisional appointment as clerk and crier of the courts inJefferson County, New York, where a lawyer friend, Gordon Phillips (the model for “the Counselor” in A Fan’s Notes), asked Exley to forge a signature on a check for one of his clients, an action that led to Phillips’ disbarment.[8]

“I mean, look, on the other hand,” continued the skeleton, “you could wind up producing something that would make us all proud, me here moldering in my grave in Peekskill, your mother in her plastic bag in that box in the beautiful paper shopping bag a few feet from where you’re typing.  I mean, Frederick Exley was pretty fucked up, too.  And yet, as your Wiki informs us:

A Fan’s Notes was published in September 1968, and although early sales were not good, its release prompted widespread critical acclaim. The novel, about a longtime failure who makes good by finally writing a memoir about his pained life, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and received the William Faulkner Award for best first novel, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award.

“End of his troubles, Elie?  Think again.  But look, here’s a great line about a work based on the life’s work of the lifelong alcoholic:  with humor as black as Exley’s liver, Clarke picks apart the fictions we tell one another — and those we tell ourselves.    Not bad, eh?  There are some clever bastards out there, Elie.”

You’re really not helping, dad.  Pleasant though it also is to shoot the shit with you in a way that involves neither an exchange of bullets nor an invitation to exchange fisticuffs.  

“Damn it, Elie, that $84,000 debt for law school you took on was worth every penny!” said the skeleton, resting his case.


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