The Book I Will Write #41

THE BOOK I WILL WRITE by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book.  THE BOOK I WILL WRITE is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome.  Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent.  He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and was living at the library before being kidnapped by an organization known as The Zeppelin Society.  After his rescue by an old man on a motorcycle, Fleming is back at the library.  In this episode, Annie, the editorial assistant and Fleming’s would-be ex-lover, emails him.


Dear John Henry,

I’m so glad to hear you’re back at the library and safe. You haven’t told me which library you’re in, or I’d be tempted to come visit you. I know you have to be watchful of the zeppelin people, but at least now you can get some work done on your novel.

I have some good news, too. I’ve been appointed “Interim Senior Editor”!

My first thought was, Hooray! My second thought was, WTF?

Mr. Dunlowe, from the Board, is the one who came to my office. Actually, he came to Ms. Hollymore’s office, and then asked me if I’d seen her, like he didn’t know she was in jail. I think his strategy is to pretend he doesn’t know. He wants to think she’s on a leave of absence.

Is it me, or does everyone seem in denial these days? I’m starting to think that being an adult means weaving a fantasy around yourself like a thick winter coat. Insulation, I guess.

Who are these people walking the streets? What fantastic visions seduce them away from me?

That’s me paraphrasing a poem I wrote in my head on one of my slow walks around the city. I think of the dancing foxes in your very first letter to Ms. Hollymore, which I’ve printed out and placed on the window sill above my bed. The morning light catches it, but it looks best at dusk. I’m sort of pathetic.

Maybe I’m just looking for someone to be pathetic with me, in what will someday be known in pop psychology articles as a “co-pathetic relationship.” I’m a trendsetter.

Anyway, the thing about being an Interim Senior Editor is that so far it’s exactly the same as being an Editorial Assistant. I don’t seem to have the power to make any decisions.

Okay, there is one difference. When authors call to discuss their manuscripts, or their cover art, or their copyediting, I no longer say, “Ms. Hollymore will call you as soon as she returns from vacation.” (“You mean jail,” the people who have been following her story will reply.) Now I say, “That’s in process, and it shouldn’t be much longer,” which is what Mr. Dunlowe has told me to say.

Mr. Dunlowe strolls by my desk once a day. He hasn’t offered to let me use Ms. Hollymore’s office, and I haven’t asked. He pretends to be just passing through, and he acts like he’s going to walk right by my desk. Then he stops, like he just thought of something.

“How’s everything in Editorial?” he says. As if I’m the representative of the entire Editorial department. But maybe I’m the only one who’s not extremely busy. Actually, I have almost nothing to do.

“Just fine, sir,” I say.

“Good, good. Well, keep it up!”

“I sure will!” And then I make myself some chai and sip it at my desk.

I have a job for dreamers and idlers, and it suits me. I mean, someone has to keep an eye on the world. Otherwise, it could spin out of control and we’ll all be dead before you know it!

So I guess you can thank me for keeping the world spinning at a reliable rate. If I can’t stop it, I can at least slow it down.

Be safe, and let me know how your novel progresses. If they ever give me some decision-making power, maybe I can help you get it published!