This may apply only to writer-types or it may apply to jilted lovers or it may well apply to every human ever but I’m talking now about about rejection. In the grand scale of the universe it means nothing and even on the scale of humanity it means very, very little but what to do, if you’re a little tiny writer, with those magazines and those journals that just don’t want anything to do with you? I keep a tally of rejections–not, I don’t think, out of any sense of lamenting one’s bruises but instead as a way of merely keeping track–and there are five or eight or ten publications out there which I keep trying but which keep saying, flatly, no.
It’s Halloween, let’s say, and I’m not talking about the houses with lights on that have run out of candy, saying Sorry, you missed us by ten minutes. I’m talking about the houses that never had their lights on at all. Five rejections, eight, ten, at each. Do I keep knocking on those doors?
Everyone: please ignore my grumblings. I know, in my heart of hearts, what the answer is. I’m just not doing it for them.
Or, alternatively: They don’t like my font. That’s it. They just hate Times New Roman.
At a writing conference two summers ago, one of my workshop teachers, in making his points, referred, over and over, to To Kill a Mockingbird. It became clear that he knew the book inside and out, that he had read it many times. It was very impressive and the impression became, for me, at least, that he was on similar intimate terms with many other novels. And who knows what, in that, is true or not and perhaps he does know many other books in this way: the structure, the plot, the narrator’s distance from the events in terms of time and emotion, whatever. But what is certainly clear is that it can be helpful, in both teaching to less experienced writers and to yourself, to have one or five novels pretty much down, in your hard drive, for comparing and contrasting purposes. And what I’m really saying here is that yesterday I bought a used copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I haven’t read since I was in the ninth grade, and that it is all so unfamiliar to me so as to be a different book. It’s very good so far.
There’s just nothing like this book, in almost any way. Brutal, in every way. Beautiful brutality, I guess. You get the feeling that the land, the dirt, the rocks, all of it, has fangs. The people have fangs, and are stupid, and are brutal. Unrelenting, this book. Even the end, the last line, it doesn’t even relent. It circles on and on. He’s trying, I think, to talk about that brutality, to capture this vision of unrelenting violence, war, awfulness. Not an easy book to read, not for its violence, its at-times plotless-ness, its pessimism, but what a wallop this thing is.