Friday, August 15, 2008

Novels that Aren’t and Weren’t

This is heart rending, dear readers, so be prepared with the Kleenex, hanky, friend’s broad shoulder, whatever. Some novels never happen, just as it didn’t happen to my novel “The Love Song of Luke Varkey,” while I still maintain stubbornly about it being a singular, sizable, seminal peep into the seamier side of the flesh business, a look at the “underpants of Bombay” as friend CP Surendran critiqued it, the novel hasn’t moved an inch and I am bound to dump it and start something else. As Arundhati Roy once said, “Everyone doesn’t become novelists,” how true. It hurts, and it hurts badly after one has devoted years and years to its development, and it sits there like a pile of shit on one’s desk and shakes its head ruefully at you, “Johnnie, it’s not happening, and it’s not gonna happen.”

Many have been the novels that are gathering dust in David Godwin’s and assorted literary agents’ “Novel Junkyards.” Mine included. Many are the stories that are lost to the world for ever, for want of a sympathetic person to read and understand the genius behind the writing. Why, a character of mine even walked into CP’s office clutching a heavy tome (a character similar to her appears in the above mentioned “The Love Song of Luke Varkey”), wanting him to edit it for her. I had edited her writing and as they say, “She couldn’t write to save her derriere.” CP took one look and declined. The novel just wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Every novelist thinks he/she has something great to say, even the rejected ones like yours truly and the abovementioned woman. Tushes and derrieres apart, our stories aren’t stuff of literary merit unless they are written with English grammar and composition in mind. But what befell Sherry Jones was even more odious, it was a case of pre-emptive censoring. Read this excerpt from an article in Washington Post:

“In 2002, Spokane, Washington, journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem.”

But Random House which was to publish the novel referred it to an Islamic scholar who decided it wasn’t publishable, as the consequences would be too great for the publisher and the writer and editor. The project went Kaput for entirely different reasons than my novel.

Poor Sherry Jones and poor John P. Matthew. The dreams of eight-nation book promotion junket just vaporised into thin air. There’s a song that goes:

Song sung blue
Everybody knows one

Song sung blue
Every tree grows one

Me and you are a subject too
Of song sung blue.

Substitute Song with Novel and here’s the doggerel with minor modification, all my handiwork:

Novel written blue
Everybody has one

Novel written blue
Every tree grows one

Me and you are a subject too
Of novel written blue.

Of the many novels that disappeared into oblivion I will say nothing. Not even my own.

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