Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Third-Life Third-Major Crisis

Let me give you this warning: never read Nick Hornby if you're feeling unsettled in life and aren't ready to admit to yourself that you are probably providing the majority of your unsettledness yourself. The unflinching way he presents the attitudes and actions of himself and his characters dares the literate adult quasi-mature man to survey himself for any similar characteristics: to remove the apparatus that hides our flaws from ourselves and address them, even if we can't figure out how to deal with them.

I have been listening to the audiobook presentation of Hornby's "Fever Pitch" on the 45-75 minute (depending on traffic) drive to and from my teacher credentialing program, so I get the dual-fisted grappling of my adjusting to a new schedule (not working late nights anymore), a new school and field of study (education), and entrance into my thirties (I've almost given up on today's radio music), with the constant succession of rejection letters (from agents and journals) ambushing my mailbox, while I listen to Nick describe the progression of aimlessness with his major field post-graduation (sounds too familiar), working a job that lasts an inexplicably long set of years (wincingly familiar), eventually entering a teaching program (ditto), then giving up teaching to write (not a luxury I suspect I will be allowed me), which begins and progresses as unsuccessfully as mine has, all around and about the age I find myself in (oh yeah, and he writes a little bit about soccer there too, which with the problems in his love life are the only things I completely don't relate to). Nick begins as a playwright, and like many other authors whom I admire his first works are rejected and then abandoned, much like I've been recently, fearfully, considering may be the case with my first novel. I then wonder if these parallels I see between his life then and my life now are, actually, valid, or am I just too unsettled for a proper self-reflection?

But then I have these flashing moments of blindered clarity: I realize that Nick is cataloguing his writing's rejection in a successfully published book, and I remind myself that nobody has read more than half of my novel, so the rejection of my first novel isn't quite definitive yet.

And then, even the failure to have my first novel accepted by an agent or publisher puts me in quite a fraternity:

-Franz Kafka never even finished his three novels, much less had them published in his lifetime.

-Daniel Handler's novel "The Basic Eight", was rejected thirty-seven times before finding a publisher (also, it wasn't his first completed novel).

-Stephen King wrote several novels before having "Carrie" published, and at one time had so abandoned that manuscript that he physically threw it in the trash.

There's more, but that's all I have the energy to present now. But I'd love to hear any such stories you readers would like to send me.

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