Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Went to see the gypsy

I just finished a great book called The Thirteenth Tale, a pulpy gothic novel in the tradition of Jane Eyre, but really fantastic. It’s a very hard thing to do, write a book in an older tradition, and to do it successfully in this day and age. And then to get it published. My dad, who works for a Christian publisher, keeps going on and on about how it only publishes thirty of the 1500 manuscripts it receives a year, and only prints 2500 copies of each book. In order to be a success, the book has to sell out of its first printing and go on to a second, and only twenty percent of the books they publish do that. Only twenty percent of the books even make any money for the publisher. Those are sobering statistics.

Not encouraging news for the nubile young writer. Has there ever been? Meanwhile, all the news is how Americans are reading less and less, and how all of us might as well just give up and go work at convenience stores. So what does one do? I don’t know.

The Thirteenth Tale succeeds because it has a built-in audience: the bibliophile. By consciously echoing all of a book reader’s favorite books, it’s evidently been a success. According to a friend of mine, there was a three-month wait for the book at her local library. So that’s the secret--write a book about books. Who wants to do that?

I've decided to try to make the best of being here, which means making full use of the local library, even if I’m forever placing books on hold and then forgetting to go pick them up, thereby wasting all of the local library’s precious financial resources. I've also invested the $8 a month in Netflix, which I still have a hard time believing is not a waste of money, as much as I love rating movies for hours on end and updating my queue with crazy old Cannes Film Festival winners and Scorsese's early films. My most recent conquest was an Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film festival (meaning me in front of a DVD player until two o’clock in the morning).

It makes me wonder whether books are being left behind and movies aren’t really the media for our time. Should I switch to screenplays? Or, better yet, writing for television? I’m certainly not brave enough for Hollywood yet.

I’ve also ended up with a small job at the local YMCA, which at least allows me free yoga. Only it’s not exactly free if it costs me hours of my life. I have yet to find any employment I actually enjoy. All I do is keep crossing things off my list--nope, don’t like that. Nope, not that either.

Still, I'm chugging along. One day at a time, right? Each day has enough trouble of its own, as someone once said. I try not to think about Secret too much, although every time I visit my little web page, with its sailboat floating up in the blue, it makes me wish I could make a living as a mariner. How do people find work they like? Or do all of us, as Thoreau says, merely live lives of quiet desperation?

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