Daniele De Serto
English translation by Wendell Ricketts
I’m writing to alert you that the novel I have enclosed herewith is genuine rubbish—a pathetic pile of clichés that I would go so far as to call turgid. Because it’s so very ghastly, I thought you deserved fair warning.
Frankly, I cannot for the life of me understand what possessed me to string together such a long-winded series of inanities. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that the whole thing stirs up deeply violent feelings in me. I’ve had the manuscript bound, as you quite justifiably demand in the “Submissions” section of your site, and when I look at it, I can hardly resist the urge to smash somebody right in the face with it.
At this point, though, it’s only fair for my work to receive the mockery it so richly deserves. I accept the facts: there is no longer any avoiding a merciless critical review. Not with that convoluted plot and all that artificial, self-conscious stylistic frippery.
The fact is that I was once an exceptional writer. Back when I wasn’t writing, I mean. I had thousands of novels floating around in my head, and I meticulously refrained from writing a single one of them. It goes without saying that I’m describing a series of masterpieces, does it not? Maintaining my discipline was no easy task, but that’s what made me a true anti-writer’s writer, if you grasp my meaning. Dissembling and suppression at a truly intimate level. Those were the years! I had an inexhaustible creative streak that just kept laying golden eggs.
You may well wonder how I came to the decision to yield to this rather self-effacing desire to be published when I could have gone on holding publishers at bay in aeternum. But what is done is done. I can no longer hope to avoid the ignominy of a negative review. Still, I thought the very least I could do was relieve your consciences with this letter.
Do refrain from gratuitous cruelty, however, as I can be extremely sensitive at times. In fact, it probably makes sense to inform you that I might well react to irrelevant comments in an unseemly manner. Please don’t forget that I am extremely prone to sudden fits of capriciousness. If you were to tell me I’d made a wrong move here, I’d be the first to agree. Still, I feel as though I’ve earned a little credit in my field of endeavor, so please take it easy with the kneejerk rejections.
But we were discussing plot, were we not? Well, it’s not as though I’ve been randomly scribbling on the pages, is it? No, I designed my book quite deliberately, and readers like you—people with some experience under their belts, I mean—shouldn’t need to put forth more than a modicum of effort to grasp the entire storyline. Without that effort, all the metaphors, the deep conflicts, and the symbolic complexity that I’ve set into motion in the narrative won’t be worth shit, and all you’d wind up noticing would be the novel’s enormous sense of irony and its exquisite poetical diction.
The self-contradictory nature of the plot is what I would call a spontaneous sin, and I defend its right to exist. It distinguishes me from the current generation of writers, so over-eager to dump their “truth” all over the reader. Frisky and heroic, all of them—at least on paper. But there’s no need to explain all this to you, is there? I shouldn’t have thought so, at any rate.
You are about to win the lottery! And I’m delighted not only to be the bearer of this excellent news, but also to be the cause of your imminent success. Yes, indeed. The enclosed manuscript is nothing short of a masterpiece. And just think: barely two hours ago I was calling it “turgid.” All I needed was to get out of the house for a little fresh air and clear my head.
As I was walking to the post office (I was sending my manuscript off to another publisher who’s located not far from you—my plan is to work my way from north to south), I noticed the sun swimming out into a blue sea of sky, and I couldn’t help but recall that line in my novel in which I describe—and this is going to surprise you—the sun swimming out into a blue sea of sky. Just exactly the way a certain Mr. Fitzgerald does on page 122 of Tender Is The Night. Fitzgerald, I’m saying, not some random asshole.
In my previous cover letter, I mentioned something about a convoluted plot. With every step I took this afternoon, my novel tucked under my arm, I could feel the poor, offended manuscript kicking me through the envelope.
Feeling how vital, how full of pride my novel was, I couldn’t help but reflect upon all the hard work that had gone into providing the book with its sophisticated structure, not to mention the climax it so richly deserved and—I scarcely need to add—a forceful personality.
Then, when I was at the post office, I ran into a young woman who was the very image of the bewitching lady detective who is my novel’s central character. Could that be anything other than a sign from the universe? That’s right, I did say detective. But no: my book is no pedestrian whodunit!
Of course, I am well aware that you publish only crime fiction and mysteries. As you so insistently suggest in the “Submissions” section of your site, I have read your entire catalog in order to compare my novel to the work you typically accept. In fact, I found no commonalities whatsoever. On the other hand, your catalog is crawling with titles that are apparently intended to conjure up webs of intrigue, high suspense, and repeated exchanges of hot lead. I can already imagine plots involving dull-witted psychopaths and their dreary pursuers, all of which has absolutely nothing to do with the depth, the subconscious trauma, and the transformational character arcs that you will find in my novel.
A whodunit, my ass.
First of all, I need to give you a heads up: I won’t be waiting the full six months you say you need to review my submission. I do understand why you’ve tried so hard to be clear about your reading times—the large number of unsolicited manuscripts you receive, blah blah blah. In my situation, unfortunately, I am in no position to follow the persnickety rules about time that you so stubbornly emphasize in the “Submissions” section of your site.
Completing the final draft of my novel over the last month required an act of total dedication. As a result, I was forced to give up my job as a salesman. In point of fact, I decided of my own free will to let the opportunity pass to challenge my employer’s risible attempt to sack me, but I am a person who eschews easy victories. And that story about how I supposedly stabbed one of my co-workers in the temple with a compass was completely full of holes, especially considering the total lack of eyewitnesses. I could have chosen to stand up to them, but I decided I would rather take advantage of the opportunity to concentrate on my writing and on the success that was clearly waiting for me just over the horizon.
From that point on, I also stopped paying my bills, including the rent and my condo fees, which explains why I periodically find myself under assault by people who claim I owe them money. In fact, the only way I could find to send you this letter was to creep out of my apartment incognito.
You’ll be needing a biographical note from me, but I’ll keep it short. I was born in Rome and still live there. With regard to my previous publishing experience, I would just as soon not get into all that. Anyway, I wouldn’t want you to be influenced when you read my manuscript. If you need more details, I’d suggest getting in touch with the other publishers to whom I’ve also sent my work. They can probably find something for you in their files. At this point, it’s only a matter of time: whichever publisher acts first will have priority access to my novel. That said, the question of the advance may well prove decisive.
My situation is now entirely out of control. I have been barricaded inside my house for two days. At this very moment, in fact, I am writing from behind closed shutters so people will think there’s no one at home. I couldn’t even guess when I might be able to send along the hard copy of my novel, though I’m quite sure you’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival. Because of that, I’ve decided to send it to you via email, despite the explicit ban on doing so that you mention in the “Submissions” section of your site.
I do apologize, but you’ll simply have to make peace both with my circumstances and with the digital revolution. Leaving aside the obvious advantages of email for the environment, the aforementioned circumstances are the real crux of the matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are such that I can’t just show my face around here willy-nilly, and damn the consequences. In my neighborhood, in particular, I don’t exactly enjoy what you might call freedom of movement. In fact, leaving the house during the day when the post office is open is certain to mean verbal altercations if not an actual street brawl—occasionally with severe physical repercussions.
The letter I received this morning from a law firm, for example, discusses serious trauma suffered by their client to his scrotal area, for which I am supposedly responsible. He has apparently been put on sick leave for a couple of weeks. Their client, to be clear, is the chair of the condominium association, and the fact of the matter is that he attempted to keep me from leaving the building by planting himself in front of the street door and waiving the condo bills at me as if they were a fan.
The long and short of it is that I’d like to ask you to skip the part where you actually read my novel, which will also save you from eyestrain in front of the computer, and simply send a contract for my signature. If I were you, I wouldn’t waste any time at all. There’s really no point. I know where your offices are located, and you probably can’t even imagine how distressing a scrotal trauma can be.
About the Author: Daniele De Serto lives in Rome (Italy). His work has appeared in journals such as Fiction Southeast, Granta Italia, Cheap Pop, Cactus Heart Press, Linus, Inutile, Colla. He also works as an author for tv shows.