Books, Finished and Not

There are four finished books. One is L’Amérique. Arielle has been working on it for three months and she and I have essentially rewritten it from page one.  It’s a good book, a better book than it was in May of this year.

There’s Montparnasse, a novel set in Paris between the two great wars and featuring a great cast of artists, writers, composers and other romantics, and one serial killer, Honoré Landru.  That one took me three years to write, and I suspect Arielle will have at it soon.  Soon, that is, if she doesn’t opt instead to edit Lurid Tales, Desperate People,  a pretty lightweight little novel  based on the lives of very blonde women and their families who live in McLean.

Then there’s Dope, a sequel to Thirst, a book published last year that earns me about seven dollars in monthly royalties.

There are three other novels in various stages of undress, or incompletion, including Montmartre, a sequel to Montparnasse, and The Cancer Club, a book a good friend told me he would never read because of its title. I may or may not finish these efforts eventually.  Then there’s what I’m currently writing, and I could not tell you under duress where that’s going, if anywhere. I think it has legs, but I’m not sure. Usually, it takes me about 150 pages to know if there’s a book there, or simply a bunch of random and often uninteresting conjectures.

I think in a lifetime I must have written an avalanche of words, a veritable Amazon River of sentences and paragraphs, thousands upon thousands of pages I felt had a degree of importance. Some got published, most did not; some were read by others who in turn got in touch with me to say (1) it was entertaining; (2) it was somewhat original; and (3) “I have no idea what you’re writing about.”  One reader of Thirst asked for her money back, which I considered somewhat cheeky since she’d gotten a review copy.

I’ve always believed writers carry history on their backs. In 2013, some 305,000 new and revised books were published in the United States alone. In my native France, by comparison, 42,000 books were published in 2011, which is less than Iran but more than Australia. I suspect most  of these books were not widely read, since so few publications are, and I wonder if their authors felt elation at being published and the attendant dejection of being routinely rejected.

Me? I think it’s worth it. I remember dancing in the street—quite literally—when my first book contract came through.

L’ Amérique is finished and looking for a good home.  I’m hoping I’ll dance again soon.


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