Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Merit consists in the virtue of love alone"

Today is the feast day of St Catherine of Siena, who is more-or-less the patron saint of the novel I just finished revising, Go Home, Miss America. The ghost of St Catherine has a few cameo appearances in the novel, and the protagonist is named for her. That saint was a real kook; nowadays she'd be given a fistful of prescriptions and told to relax, maybe take some art classes, that sort of thing. One does not hear these days that it's perfectly reasonable to attempt to lift yourself up to the level of the divine rather than attempting to drag the divine down to the level of humanity.

That divide, of patterning yourself after Christ (no matter the sacrifice) rather than assuming God is made in your image (and so every act of yours has the heavenly stamp of approval), is the central issue of Go Home, Miss America, even if the book is in the form of a transformative journey intertwined with a sexual comedy. Blah blah blah. You don't care about this. It's a hard sell, is this book, because the message is that people should be better than they are, that goodness is more important than happiness, that selfishness is not an okay way to engage with the world. It might be, for me anyway, a moralistic book and people only find a moralistic book attractive when the moral is "you are special and can do whatever you want and all you need is to discover your unique gift." That moral is a lie, but it sells.

Anyway, I only write this post because today is the feast day of St Catherine of Siena, and yesterday I finished a long and intense sort of revision to the manuscript of Go Home, Miss America preparatory to sending the book off to a plucky little publisher to see if they want my 85,000-word rebuke of contemporary American pridefulness.

11 comments:

  1. I hope you get good news from the publisher!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tim. It will take a brave little publisher to put out this book, because it's a sort of unfriendly book, a book not designed to comfort the reader. It also contains some of my most beautiful writing, so we'll see. First, I need to enter all of my edits into the ms and actually send the book off to the publisher. Until I do that, I'm just talking.

      Delete
    2. Are you doing this through an agent? I have no idea how publishing works these days. My manuscripts collect dust and will never see the light of day let alone a publisher's eyes. But I remain curious about the process, and I am profoundly impressed by anyone who can write and publish.

      Delete
    3. Years ago I had an agent, but no longer. I have shopped the novel in question around to about a hundred agents, none of whom is interested in a book that talks seriously about faith and claims that self-actualization is less important than kindness. So these days I'm looking at small presses who take submissions directly from authors. Small presses are putting out a lot of good, interesting books, but they also have narrow tastes and their own particular foci so it remains a challenge.

      Delete
  2. Your news is not true. If you have not screwed it up in this last round of revisions, then “Go Home, Miss America” is not an off-putting moralistic tale—or at least that is not all that it is. The characters are not cutout figures of good and evil, of moral striving vs self-absorption but rather perfectly believable middle-class Americans having their own, not-all-that-exceptional, existential crises. The author may believe that it’s an obvious tale of morality, faith, and aspirations to godly behavior, but the reader is more likely to identify with a normal enough woman attempting to find a meaningful way of life. That Catherine’s way of achieving that meaning is an emulation, of a sort, of her namesake (but more of Christ, no?) may seem to the author, who rarely knows his own work, to be preaching self-denial but he is mistaken. And you are too hard on David as well who, if you ask me, isn’t all selfish desire. The problem is not the content of the book but the pusillanimity of modern publishing. It’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, it is. But I hope you changed that goat’s name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Staggering, certainly. I don't know about the rest.

      "Benedict" is an excellent name for a goat.

      Delete
  3. But not a goat that comes to a bad end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A watched plot never spoils.

      When it is published, make sure Chris Beha at Harper's gets a copy.

      Delete
  4. It probably goes without saying, but I'll be quite interested in this novel. Best of luck as you wade into the despondent slough of the submission process.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Buckets of luck! The beautiful, the good, and the true need a lot of luck these days, I fear. But perhaps you will have your share soon. I hope so!

    ReplyDelete