Thursday, November 10, 2016
Am I close?
What's altogether possible is that it's not a great novel. What makes me believe I can write a novel good enough to be published these days, when traditional publication has become so difficult? What prompts me to believe a story I create is interesting to anyone these days?
I'm long past prime. No great career awaits me. No one's going to pick up my novel hoping that if this one isn't a winner, the next one will be. There may never be another.
Yesterday, editing this beast of a manuscript, I deleted a sentence that described wet roadside grasses shining in the early morning sun the way the spooled remains of a smashed cassette might. The sentence is gone. After all, who knows what audio tape even looks like anymore? I'm a creature from the black lagoon of yesterday, and there are any number of good reasons no one will take this manuscript.
Besides, technology has changed everything. A man left a voice mail yesterday, wondering again if I'd be interested in publishing with them, self-publishing; he's called several times and all I'd done was typed my name somewhere on their website. Publishing is terribly hard these days because it's become ridiculously easy.
What I'm saying is there may be a thousand reasons why this manuscript of mine will never get published--or, if it does, noticed. It would be wonderfully convenient to be able to blame it's never getting out of my computer on a single dastardly cause, but there may well be tons of reasons, including this one--the writer is a washed-up hack.
But sometimes I wonder if discrimination isn't a part of it. Sometimes I can't help thinking it's so because nobody really cares about a story set out here on the edge of nowhere, a region hemorrhaging population since the 1890s. rural America on the prairie. There's just not all that many of us out here. We're a demographic minority--rural white Midwestern evangelicals.
So who gives a crap about a story that features people like me? Who wants to spend time in a novel that features no zombies or Amish women or crazed religious murderers, instead simply a novel about ordinary people way down there in fly-over country? Who cares?
Marilynne Robinson can do it, and does, and has. I just finished Home, a novel that, like her Gideon, never leaves the same tiny Iowa town--and in the fifties. But I know Marilynne Robinson, I've met Marilynne Robinson, I've talked with Marilynne Robinson--and I'm not Marilynne Robinson.
Still, there are times I've been marginalized. Who cares for us way out here? Certainly not Hollywood, unless it can create caricature, say a religious fanatic with a wood-chipper. We're banal and bigoted and beastly and can't see past the greasy bills of our feed caps.
What chance does this manuscript have in the real world, is something I ask myself. Easy: slim and none.
I'm trying as hard as I can to understand what happened to all of us this week, specifically from my little acre out here on the edge of the Plains, trying not to drink away my misery because more than anything, what I feel is shame, shame that a banal bigot, a beastly bully is now readying himself to become to leader of the free world because we elected him. I don't understand that, and I'm trying. Help me.
I know people hate Crooked Hillary--I get that. And I understand that she represented a status quo millions disdain or don't trust and even fear. I get that too. I don't share that antipathy, but I get it. The Clintons were never my favorite people.
But why rural America, the rural Midwest, Christian rural Midwesterners to be precise (eighty-some percent of the evangelical vote chose Trump), would elect to the office of President a human being arrogant about his own arrogance, a flesh-pot gambler toting a string of wives and concubines as long as Solomon's, a chiseler who hasn't chipped a dime for schools or roads or military pensions in almost 20 years--why people follow him remains a profound mystery I'd love to understand.
The closest I can come from the depths of my own soul is that sneering anger I feel when I wonder whether anyone would ever read a novel set here, a novel about ordinary people in fly-over country. Sometimes, I'll admit it, I grow resentful because, dang it!--I exist, all right? I'm an old white male who's spent most of almost seventy years claiming to be an evangelical, never less so than now. I am the guy who elected Trump, people like me, people tired and angry about being overlooked.
Is that it? Is that the baggage I can claim? Is that what made thousands chant "Lock her up"? Am I coming close?
I'm serious. Is that what so many millions feel, so many old evangelical white men from out in the country?
I just don't know.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:55 AM