At our writers’ afternoon the other day, Don C told me about walking into a publisher’s office one day. He passed by a room off to the side of the offices where sat a young scruffy college kid surrounded by stacks and stacks of manuscripts, like Aladdin in a cave of jewels—except what he was surrounded with wasn’t all gold. “The one who rejected my manuscript…” Don remarked of the kid.
My latest bad news (rejection #3) came from The Paris Review while Arvin and I were in Hawaii back in April. I had someone checking my PO box while we were away, and when he called to say that there was an indistinguishable bit of mail—something handwritten, addressed to me, from me—I was pretty sure I knew who it was from:
I’m tempted to finish that phrase with the obvious “the more they stay the same” but that would be disingenuous. The truth of the matter is, eleven years ago when I was writing poorly they wanted to see more of my work; now, when I’m writing well, they’re seem to have lost interest.
I have nothing but respect for editors. After I quit writing book reviews in San Diego, years ago, I moved back to The City with a box full of unread books and galleys. There’s only so much ink (or bytes) that can cover all the pages of work that are produced in this country in any given year, and only so much time to read it. I can imagine the heaps of unsolicited dreck and lunatic ramblings that must come through the pipeline at the New Yorker each day. And there sits that bleary-eyed son of the editor’s acquaintance sifting through yet more paragraphs of strangling prose…
One suspects the folding of the rejection note and slipping it into the SASE are quite automatic:
Rejection. It’s all part of the effort; all part of the novelist’s due.