Would You Pay to Read This Novel?

corkscrew-manA favorite feature of mine on the blog Writer Unboxed, is by editor Ray Rhamey, who selects the first page of a best-selling novel and asks, “Would you pay to turn the page of this best-seller?” which he then follows it with a critique. sometimes blistering, always interesting. But we push the envelope here at Dead Darlings, so I invite you to judge the novel below (the title of which is a closely-held secret) based strictly on its preface.

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First, you should understand, dear reader, that a child working in my publisher’s marketing department suggested I write this missive to you. I explained (patiently, pa-tient-ly)  that I do not ever read skip such pages myself, but to no avail. So it’s apparent if you’re reading this that you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. Which is, let’s be honest, terribly sad. But let’s move on.

This novel has been recognized as a seminal work in a brand new but poorly understood genre: 21st Century Shopping, also known by its crass appellation, Buy-Fi. Some will be put off by text that reads like catalog copy but more flexible readers will welcome the thrilling discovery that as they’ve been reading, they’ve also purchased such items  as a double wide trailer or a case of artisanal gherkins at exactly the same time!

So in buying this book, you’re getting in on the ground floor, if you will. Not that there aren’t some imperfections in the product you now hold. I’m responsible for none of them, of course, but I’d be remiss if I failed to point some out.

For example, the front cover, that close-up of the glass of white wine, with all the condensation? Not my choice. I left my agent many, many messages about that, at all different hours. Let me say unequivocally that this book has nothing to do with drinking. There’s one scene portraying characters imbibing. OK, three scenes. Four. But it wasn’t always white wine, is my point.

Let me also say that it is my fondest hope, dear reader, that you’re not one of those tiresome consumers of fiction who got an MFA or took classes on writing and gets lathered up about things like beats and stakes and taut, clean prose.

But if you are one of those writing craft types, fine. I can anticipate your concerns, e.g. chapter 4. True, my writers group was unanimous that it was a darling in need of killing, a murder long overdue. Some even volunteered to do the deed themselves. (Guess who’s not mentioned in the Acknowledgements?) And that chapter did come pretty darn close to being guillotined. But in the end, I protected those pages, even from my editor who grew hoarse telling me to take them out. (To be perfectly frank, I think she was mailing it in after awhile, IMO.) So why did I stand my ground? Because some darlings are simply too glorious to send to the cyber heap, that’s why. Go ahead—I dare you to read that chapter and tell me you aren’t delighted it was spared. You didn’t get confused, did you? Or bored? No, of course not. See what I mean? Fools.

Do disregard anyone who whines that my protagonist has no discernible arc. That’s ridiculous because–spoiler alert—he’s far better dressed at the end. Honestly, some people you have to take by the hand and show them—but not you, dear reader. I’m confident about you. Up to a point.

Notice, too, that there are answers to the Discussion Guide in the back. My innovation. You’re welcome.

You’re surely curious about My Process, having heard novelists on NPR gas on about how many years they took to produce their work, how many revisions, whole swaths of text discarded, etc. Poor indecisive, addled-headed souls. Fortunately I have the brio, the je ne sais quoi, to march on with whatever came into my head first and never look back. Not even for typos.

A final word about that tiny subset of insufferable readers who get all Charles Baxter-ish about conflict and desire. They’ll sniff that “no one makes anything happen” in this novel, that in fact, nothing happens. So untrue. It’s…subtle. But you’re more discerning than those writers- conference losers, aren’t you, dear reader? You’ll figure it out. And when you do, write it all down and send it to me. Please. Since, as we established at the outset, you’re really not busy.

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OK, Dead Darlings readers, would you pay to turn to Chapter One? No? Alright, then. What would you pay to keep this book from being slipped under your door whilst you and your loved ones are asleep? Opening bids now being accepted.

3 comments

  1. Peggy Bjarno

    I think it’s a hoot! Like EB Moore, I would want to read it for the humor. In fact, if I was standing at the book table at Costco, I’d go on to read several pages of Chapter One, just to make sure. I cannot imagine a preface which is not actually part of the story, so I’m assuming we are meeting the main character.

  2. Mark Guerin

    Like a certain presidential candidate on view these days, one can’t help but want to watch a train wreck, even knowing it’s going to be ‘a disaster,’ as he might say, from beginning to end. I suspect this book would fall into a similar ‘so bad it’s good’ category and become a cult classic.

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