First Novel Blues
A Hollywood agent called me about ten years ago, after reading the first chapter of my novel, Minyan, which had been in the works for ten years before that. “I LOVED Chapter One!!” she shrieked. This could be VERY BIG. You know I’m someone who works on BIG movie projects out here. I’ll call you again when I finish reading it. I’m taking it on my vacation — I’m SO excited!”
She had used the word “big” twice. About a month later I received a small, pathetic white postcard, mailed from Greece but lacking even a pretty photo of Corfu; just my address on one side, and on the other the following note:
“I’m afraid the rest of the book did not do it for me. I cannot work with this material. Since I am currently on holiday overseas, I will discard your manuscript here.” I had visions of the pages of my book scattered on the Aegean Sea, my characters drowning, flailing their arms helplessly.
“One of my favorite jokes: Two wise old rabbis are walking on the beach, contemplating life in companionable silence. Finally one rabbi says to the other, “I’ve been thinking…” “And what is it you’ve been thinking?” “I’ve been thinking that the very best thing… is never to have been born at all.” They walk a bit farther. The other rabbi finally replies, “Yes. But who has such luck? Not one in ten thousand.”
If you think this joke is funny, read this book. If you don’t think this joke is funny, read this book.
It is funny and sad and funny,
but not so… existentially enigmatic… there is a taste of bitter herbs along with the sponge cake. And then a final vision — not so much one of happiness as of grace.”
–John Casey, author, Spartina