Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sylvia’s Prolific and Preposterous Correspondence

By Anne Sullivan

“Look, Sylvia, here’s another letter for you. It’s the second one this week,” I said as I dumped the day’s collection of catalogs, bills and requests for money on the table.
“It’s a good thing I now have a paperweight with my name on it. An admirer named Roger sent it to me this week and it’s not even my birthday until next month,” said Sylvia, gloating as she stroked the paperweight with her paws before putting it on top of yesterday’s and today’s letters.
“I received a paperweight from Roger, too, with my name on it,” I said. “It’s a smiley face like yours and very cheery.”
“You probably got it because you’re my mother,” Sylvia said. “Gordo got a paperweight, too. I don’t know what he’ll put under it. He doesn’t know how to read or write.”
“Perhaps you could teach him.”
“Nobody could teach him. He has the attention span of a flea. I think he’s got AHD or whatever they’re calling it these days.”
“He might grow up soon,” I said with a sigh. “Who was your letter from?”
Removing the paperweight with care, Sylvia read today’s letter and answered, “El Gato de Cruzville sent a card saying he was moving to Silver City to find me a publisher. And yesterday Pie and Buddy from Quemado wrote this:
    ‘Do not despair. Book publishers reject hundreds of stories. Some years ago
    Thomas Wolfe wrote a beautiful story. It was rejected by several Publishing
    Companies. Along came an Editor, Max Perkins, who knew a good story
    when he read one. He edited that book and it became a best seller. Thomas
    Wolfe was on his way with ‘Look Homeward Angel.’
Isn’t that a beautiful letter?”
“That’s a really nice and uplifting letter,” I agreed.
“It sure is. Buddy and Pie are very good friends even though I’ve never met them. But who was Max Perkins?”
“Maxwell Perkins was an exceptional editor, the likes of which we don’t see today. He worked for Scribner’s and edited manuscripts for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.P. Marquand and Alan Payton as well as Thomas Wolfe. He died in 1947.”
“It’s a real shame there’s no one like him now,” said Sylvia yawning. “Oh, I’m so tired after reading all my mail. I’m just going to take a wee nap. I trust you’ll keep quiet if I lie down on the rug.”
“For sure, as long as you don’t mind a little music, your highness.”
Soon Sylvia’s snores permeated the room. After twelve minutes of this I looked up from my paper to notice that she was twitching and turning. Was she dreaming?
 “You’re Sylvia,” the man said as though it were a fact and not a question.
I stopped working on The Computer and nodded.
“What’s that you’re doing?” the man asked me. “It looks like a funny typewriter.”
“There’s nothing funny about it,” I said. “It’s very hard to do things on The Computer. Sometimes SHE cries when it won’t do what SHE wants. Nowadays you have to write everything on a computer. I have to use it to send my column in to the paper.”
“Send it?” He looked puzzled. “You don’t mail it?”
“I used to. But then SHE got The Computer. SHE hates it but I have to admit it has some virtues.”
“Hah,” he grunted. “I’ve been told you need editorial help with your book.”
“I suppose so,” I said. “I thought my book was very good but it’s been rejected.”
“Let me read it.”
“I’ll bring it up,” I said. He looked mystified. “I could print it out for you,” I offered.
In two shakes of a lamb’s tale I handed him the sheet of paper with the first chapter on it. It took him no time at all to read it. Then he crumpled the paper and said in a low voice, “That’s really terrible.”
“Terrible?” My voice trembled.
He nodded. “Really terrible. Nothing at all happens. Nothing makes me want to read any further. However, I can help you if you’re willing to work hard. You have a lot of rewriting to do.”
“Rewriting?!” I echoed.
“Yes. Now wake up. It’s time to get started.”

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