Desire in an Age of There Being Nothing Left to Want

Ha ha ha. You know that’s how you’re about to get sucked into some terrible academic treatise. If there’s a “in an age of” in there. Project X is with the Head of Project X. I still want to have a “real” book published. I guess I want the whole nation to have a chance to hate me. I don’t know. But look at this

Just as her new novel, “Doc,” was being released in 2011, she got word that her publisher was not interested in any more books from her. She had been with Random House since 1996 and published five novels with the New York house. During that time, she had won an Arthur C. Clarke Award and an American Library Association Readers Choice Award. Entertainment Weekly had chosen “The Sparrow” as one of the 10 best books of year.


Stunned and confused, she remained quiet about Random House’s decision because she had to begin her book tour for “Doc,” a western about John Henry Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Ironically, given her publisher’s termination of their relationship, the novel received very positive reviews and was chosen as one of The Washington Post’s top five novels of 2011.

And, yes, I know, it’s borrowing trouble, at least somewhat, to worry about this shit. But I feel like the thing I aspire to is vanishing as I aspire to it. And I don’t know how to adjust my wants so that I want something more plausible, more actually possible.

I don’t know why feeling like I do good work isn’t enough, but it isn’t. I want people I don’t know to think I do good work. I want to read stories to strangers.

And yet, I’ve done that.

So, I don’t know what my problem is.

When we were younger, half a lifetime ago, I taught The Butcher to drive. We went out in my car after I got off work and took off through the country. We were right on the western edge of Illinois then, so it was common to be driving flat and straight for what seemed like eternity and then, without warning, you’d curl down into a landscape defined by the whims of a river–bluffs and crooked roads and trees–and then, just as quickly, back up and out into that eternal flatness again.

When we were down among the river’s things, it sometimes felt like we were just missing something that would blow our minds–that just around the next bend, just over the next hill, something beyond what we could imagine for ourselves was waiting. And we never did come across it. Not once on any of those drives. It was just us and the longing for something we couldn’t articulate, something no one else had or knew of. Something that would say this drive, this day, this life was worth it.

That’s how I feel about writing sometimes, like I hope I’m doing something that will take the Butcher and me someplace we didn’t even know we wanted to go. When I’m feeling incredibly reckless, I hope our other brother will be there to meet us.

But other times, I feel like I’m chasing ghosts. Nothing left to be caught.

3 thoughts on “Desire in an Age of There Being Nothing Left to Want

  1. Yes. This right here. Am I an idiot to imagine finding an agent? Am I an idiot for imagining anyone I query will at least grant me the courtesy of a rejection, instead of resounding silence? Can I even write whatever the hell it is that is popular? Bah. I don’t know. I don’t know if I should care. I care, but… I think sometimes it’d be better for my sanity if I just wrote for my very tiny audience and was happy with *that*.

  2. Exactly. And the thing is that I know my writing benefits from editing. I want people who know what makes a good book to look at my work and tell me how to make it better. I want to go into bookstores and see my book on the shelves. And yet, if all that stuff really, honestly, is out of reach, then I want to know immediately so that I can better work my own thing.

  3. I’ve been wrestling with this for quite awhile. I love writing, but I honestly don’t know what to do about the next step, now that the next step I planned for all these years is getting washed away with the tide.

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