f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Things I Wonder

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Things I Wonder

In this supposition, I am a (hypothetical) acquisitions editor.

One day, in my email, I get a proposal for Ulysses or The Gold Bug Variations or Wise Blood or Infinite Jest or Godric.

I (think) I’m a savvy enough reader, a sophisticated enough reader, to see the merit in these books. (I’m using Ulysses as a type here. I’ve not read it and don’t know that it could get published today, regardless of it being Modern Library’s top book of the century. Any book that requires a longer dictionary of commentary to understand it is going to find the path narrow. For better or worse.)

What I don’t know is how one edits this kind of book. Fractured, complicated, dense, challenging works seem problematic to me. Because they’re supposed to be this way. But how does one know what is too fractured? Too complicated? Too dense? Is Harold Bloom vetting manuscripts for major NY publishers?

We work so often here in the realm of the point-blank (and please note that I’m not adding any negative connotations to comprehensible) that moving into areas of obfuscation and intentional complexity gives me pause. And this isn’t going to remain theoretical very long. I’ve seen manuscripts recently that take their own risks in various areas of writing. And they’re exciting. And, to be frank, I’m mildly terrified I’m going to end up signing one of these things and then starting at it for a week going, “Now what?”

I guess I’d like to try that terror, though. At least once.