“OK, so at this point you’ve written, let’s see, at last count, 91,180 words for this planned Book of Irv. You’ve started another website to begin sorting through that mountain of words, which interested readers, so to speak, can find here (along with a handful of nice photos of me) and… what? Do you really, and I say this in all seriousness, do you really expect anyone to give even the rumblings of a shit about the life of your brilliant, bitter, complicated, charming, malicious father, no matter how engagingly you set it out?” The skeleton looked idly off to the side as he said this, having no eyes to make contact with in any case.
“You know, it’s an act of almost hilarious hubris, for a man with your long proven track record of non-participation in society, to think that suddenly you’ll be able to sell your idea of an engaging and soul-troubling book to a reputable publisher, be paid a few thousand dollars to complete it, with the help of an insightful and generous editor, see it published, well-reviewed, tour the disappearing bookstores and elitist universities promoting it, talk to Terry Gross and Leonard Lopate, and, somehow, get to carry on my work, whatever the hell that was. Your own well-chosen words, Elie, from the other site:
It is my foolish intention to carry on my father’s work by writing a book to move the hearts and minds of its readers and help to launch the non-profit of my dreams, a collaborative student-run workshop for the children of the doomed.
“Not exactly approved by the marketing department, and we’ll get back to the ‘children of the doomed’ line in a little while. Presumably, this book will also serve to fully explain why you devoted the last five years of your life to dreaming up, fine-tuning and conducting this now dormant student-run animation workshop for public school kids in poor neighborhoods. After describing, in maniacal detail, how your father instilled this difficult mission deep in your heart.”
Well, yes. I’d make sure to inform Terry Gross’s people of that larger motivation. I’d have to write an epilogue or something covering that, so she could ask me about it.
“You do recognize how mad and unlikely of success this plan of yours is, don’t you?” he asked with skeletal stoicism, even as he flashed his now eternal grin.
“You know, I recognize that you can write, you could always write. It used to torture your sister, being compared to you, because you did whatever you wanted in school with seemingly no effort, while she had to work like a dog. In fact, in all my years teaching, I don’t think I ever had a student who put in as little effort as you consistently did, outside of the many kids I had to fail. And that’s saying a lot.”
Back up a second, dad. We talked about this the last night of your life, my sister feeling compared to me and how hard she had to work and all that. In fact, you used the same cliche then: work like a dog. Let’s clear up the record here: you agree that my sister also writes very well.
“Oh, absolutely, she’s extremely bright and articulates her thoughts crisply, no doubt about it. I’m just saying. It’s one thing to have that ability, quite another, as you’ve noticed with your few attempts to close sales on your talents and ideas here and there, that selling is a completely different exercise than clearly setting out a complicated truth, moving someone’s heart or letting your creative spirit soar freely.”
Mmmm. Maybe better to just talk about the fucking children of the doomed, at this point, than to linger over the daunting challenges I’ll be facing as soon as I start trying to flog this book in the marketplace of screaming, idiotic ideas vying for clicks.
“We’ll get to the children of the damned in a moment, but I have a suggestion for you first. Those two irrelevant (to my story) pieces you linked to in that long post yesterday about the talent for malice– the ones about your former friend Andy with the mental health issues — why not stitch them together with a little living connective tissue and send them off to some place like The Sun? There’s a dramatic arc to that as a story, much of it already told, this mentally ill eternally needy little brother mooching off you for decades, manipulating you with much of the same psychological set up as your dear old dad– the relentlessly dark wit, the fierce self-hating intelligence– and how, in the end, the only way to resolve things with him was with brutality.”
“Interesting story, I think, and it’s almost ready to stand on its own, would take little work for you to shape it into a nice piece. And maybe you could make a couple of grand selling it to a place like that, get your foot in the door, even at this late date.”
“Same with some of the chapters you’ve written for this book about me. How many books have you read with that long catalog in the beginning crediting where the individual chapters were originally published? That would be the way to get started, I would think, not that I’m any kind of expert on these matters.”
I vow to you now that I will order a copy of the Writers’ Market, like I’ve been planning to do for months. Before this day is over.
“OK, that’s a start. I won’t mention how many times you’ve inked that phrase into your little notebooks since February, with that optimistic little eternally unchecked check box next to it. Look, I know your life is a bit of a challenge but look at it this way: you’re trying to do something important with your life, put your talents to their fullest social use, and most people must be content to work at jobs they hate if they pay enough– and those are the luckier ones. The masses of people work in shit jobs they hate and don’t get paid nearly enough to do. There’s something to be said for being the kind of idealistic idiot you stubbornly continue to be, plus, you have the funds, for the moment, anyway, to go for a life of integrity as hard as you can.”
You wear me out, old man, as you always did. I’m going to open another window in this browser and order the Writers’ Market. Then I’ll come back and we’ll say a few words about the children of the doomed, the children of the damned, and also, a few about the children of the goddamned.