April 6, 2005

Post Office

This past weekend I mailed off a manuscript of "North of Sunset" to a publisher, a copy of The Golden Calf and my CD to a London reviewer, and a novella I wrote awhile back about a guy getting released from prison to the Bullfight Book Prize. Walking to the post office with all that stuff in hand made me feel like maybe I’m not such a terrible fuck-up.

I come from a family that puts some emphasis on monetary success as being the barometer of actual success. My father has a very writerly story about becoming a writer. I don’t: I just happened to be the son of a writer. My grandfather--Otto Sigmund Baum, is there a more serious name?--is a stern, German doctor and he always pushed becoming a doctor on his son. My dad made it through a year of medical school all the time wanting to be a writer. He actually dropped out of medical school without telling Dr. Baum and instead wrote his first novel.

Since then, he’s sort of had it out to prove to his father that he could make a living as a writer. Which he has, incredibly. Some of this feeling has transferred to me. It’s probably the root of much of my ambition, and why it hurts to not make good on it. I should feel better about sending off 4 things I completed.

My dad put out a novel around the same time I did and we did some readings together in NYC. We also did a joint interview on a New Jersey local TV show which I’ve never seen and is probably pretty excruciating. My father’s now finishing up a novel and he’s daunted about sending the book out. It’s a horribly uneasy feeling to have your future in someone else’s hands. He worked at NBC in the sixties writing ad copy, sort of like what I’m doing now for money. He wrote for Playboy, I wrote for Hustler. We have a lot of strange similarities, then and now.

Last night, I picked up Max Barry’s Jennifer Government . I put it down quickly because it reads like young adult fiction. I also come from a family of critics. I could hear my family reviewing the book as I read. One of these days I’ll get them out of my head, but probably not.


Spiral Stairs said...

Hmm... Your family's in your head, huh? I guess OCG wasn't such a stretch for you.

I have my own unseen reviewers, which is probably why I am so damned protective of things I've written. I only let complete strangers read them. My wife pestered me until I permitted her to read some stories, but that's about it.

Congrats on all the career-related activity. It all sounds very positive.

darling maggot said...

i wish i had a relationship like that with a parent.

although i did drop out of college to write.

Jenny D said...

Well, good luck with all of this... I liked your post above about not willing to drop the family stuff for the sake of madness/writing! Margaret Atwood has a great line somewhere where she says something like "well, you can have a job and write, and you can have a job and have a child, and you can write and have a child, but..." when an interviewer asks her why she doesn't have a teaching job. Now if someone will give you lots of money for your writing, you can cut back on the job part of it?

I read Jennifer Government with great disappointment. I actually love YA fiction (not the issues kind, the SF/fantasy kind, which is often better-written than similar novels aimed at adults). And I'd heard lots of buzz about the book. But I thought it was pretty weak--high on concept, lazy on writing, and the whole thing just didn't add up to anything much.

Ron Kattawar said...

I admire people that take up their own banner and move forward. Choosing to write can be a difficult career if your feelings aren't as strong as your convictions.

Having your family in your head is not a bad thing, especially if your faimly is discerning and enlightened. It could be a positive and help keep you on the road to better writing.

I wish you luck in your pursuit.



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