Like everyone else, I’m in close communication with someone I’ve never seen. This is nothing new. For two centuries and more there have been business letters, diplomatic communiques, telegrams, conveyed by post, messenger, cable. There have been pen pals. Epistolary romances.
For me, it’s literary business conducted with The Editor in Europe.
The business is real but The Editor is an invention.
Is he effusive? Yes. I like warmth and so that is how I find him: warm. Does he appreciate my writing? Yes. He has good taste. Do I occasionally have to send him the same manuscript or answer the same question twice? Yes, but that’s because I want The Editor to operate on memory and intuition, not records and data. Besides, he’s busy with multiple publishing responsibilities bestowed on him by other discriminating writers. And he may simply not have heard me. It’s a long way to Europe.
Nothing about him is wrong. Does he hide his face on Facebook? Yes, a charming eccentricity, perhaps an oblique comment on Facebook itself. In truth, he lost his temper one time that I know of, but occasional volatility only proves that he is human and suited to read, say, Dostoyevsky or William Burroughs.
His baseline of restrained merriment enables him to comment pleasantly on my bland, un-Burroughs-like output.
But one day he will escape my invention. One day he will focus a mind turned suddenly cool and critical on a new story I will have just given him. Shuddering, my invention will crack into a thousand pieces and fall to the floor in glue-defying shards. There will not be enough hankies in the world to dry my tears.
Then I will hate him. I will read his e-mails with a bloody eye. Cursing, I will shove my computer plug in a wall socket because there are not enough batteries in the world for the pages and pages of rewrites I must produce.
And then I will read the tenth revision and thank God for The Editor I haven’t invented. Antidote to stupidity. Servant of truth and beauty. I will thank God that he strikes my excesses. Encases his own tendencies to invent in a thin, tough membrane of objectivity. Sees what’s actually on the page. Breaks through my invention and stares back at me with a keen, unflinching eye.
(Marlene’s novel The Absent Woman will be published in April 2013 by Holland House Books, Inc. Read more at http://www.hhousebooks.com.)