Friday, March 24, 2017

"I Am A Cage, in Search of A Bird"

My name is Mr. Kafka.  I am a cage, in search of a bird.

We're a literary agency.

Then it is fortunate that I am an author.

You have a novel?

I do. An entire novel. Would you like to read it?

Absolutely not.  You can send us a brief summary and the first ten pages.

Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.

Send me the summary, and then I'll decide if I need or want it.

It's about a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he's a cockroach.

That sounds like young adult science fiction. Not our area of interest.  

It's not young adult science fiction.

What is it? What genre? 

[Mutters:] It's only because of their stupidity that they're able to be so sure of themselves.

What did you say?

Nothing; I didn't say anything.

What genre did you say it was? 

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.

Our main interest is upmarket fiction.

Books are a narcotic.  Maybe you should read it before you decide what it is, and what it is not.  I'll bring it up to your office.

What!? Where are you?  

I'm in front of your building.

Holy crap! I'm calling security. Do you hear me? There's a camera trained on you, by the way. 

Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked...

I do not wish it to be unmasked. 

I am not a stalker. I am a writer.

Fine.  Then EM me a synopsis and ten pages of manuscript. I'll let you know if we're interested.

If I EM you a synopsis and ten pages, you will read the manuscript?

Did I say that? That's not what I said. 

By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it.

[Whispers] He's right outside the building. He wants us to publish a book about a cockroach. Call security. 


Nothing; I didn't say anything.  

All language is but a poor translation.

That's so true. But Mr. Kafka, I don't think we're the agency for you. Don't be discouraged. I'm sure someone will be wildly enthusiastic about your...narrative.  I do wish you the very best  with your cockroach.  

There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe...but not for us.

Gertrude Stein

Hello I am Gertrude Stein I would like you to publish my novel The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

I'm sorry; is this a novel, or an autobiography? 

Rose is rose is rose.

You wrote a novel about Alice B. Toklas? 


Did Ms. Toklas write an autobiography?


Who or what is this book about?

Mostly me.

And who sent you to us?

Ezra Pound Ernest Hemingway F. Scott Fitzgerald Ford Maddox Ford James Joyce

Don't you know any women writers?  Our main interest is upmarket women's fiction and LBGQT.

I am a woman who writes.

Oh, you are! Fantastic! Are you, by any chance, trans-?  

Trans...forming literature into something completely new and modern?  Yes!

That's not exactly what I had in mind, but do send me a synopsis and ten pages of your manuscript. 

I'll send you the manuscript in its entirety.

No! God, no! Don't do that! 

Why not? Wouldn't you rather read the whole thing, beginning to end?

There is an extremely high probability that I will not want to do that at all. 

Writing and reading is to me synonymous with existing.

Time is money. You may email or snail-mail a synopsis and ten pages. If you send the entire manuscript, it will be recycled. If you send it as an attachment, our system will block it.

Are you afraid that you won't be able to understand my book? Very few people can understand my books. That's not really the point, though, is it?

Please write down what the point is in an email, with the first ten pages of the manuscript in the body of the text. Thank you.

I could do that. I could. But the fact is, There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There's your answer.

I see. Okay. Good luck with your autobiography, Ms. Toklas.

Ernest Hemingway

I want you to publish ten poems and a story by Ernest Hemingway.

Who is Ernest Hemingway?


And is that the title of your book, Mr. Hemingway: Ten Poems and A Story? 

It damn well could be.

We're not talking about ten actual poems and a short story, are we?  We're talking about a novel called Ten Poems and A Short Story?  Because that's a good title for a novel.

I don't know what the fuck you're talking about, brother.  I'm talking about ten poems and a short story. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear, and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses, he will endure or be forgotten.

We are primarily interested in murder mysteries. Have you thought about writing in that genre, Mr. Hemingway?

I never had to choose a subject--my subject rather chose me.

Well, if you ever find yourself selected for murder, I'd be happy to read about it.

When I have an idea, I turn down the flame, as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go. Then it explodes and that is my idea.

That sounds painful.  

It's not like I'm getting into the ring with Tolstoy...

Of course not.  [Clears throat] I don't feel we're quite the fit for you, Mr. Hemingway, but I do wish you the best of luck with your short story, ten poems, and that awful Coleman stove.

No comments: