This is a difficult post to write. Every post after an unintended hiatus is hard — how to explain the absence; how to rediscover momentum — but this one carries its own peculiar difficulties.
When last I wrote anything of substance, I was basking in the glory of tenure — now official, incidentally, blessed and toasted by the trustees themselves — and marveling at the fact that I was still unreservedly happy, still celebrating, still un-undermined by the world, a full 48 hours later.
I was only a little ahead of myself. It took 72 hours.
Tuesday morning I got the dean’s voicemail. Friday morning — five minutes before I had to go teach — I got the email telling me that the publisher that had been reviewing my manuscript for the last ten months, the publisher that had solicited and received two very positive readers’ reports, the publisher whose literary and cultural studies editor was extremely enthusiastic about the book, would not be extending me a contract. For financial reasons.
I’ve been unable to post since then — except about the joys of being a Tiger fan at this moment of the world — in no small part because I had no idea what to say. I began a deeply whiny post a couple of hours after getting the message — and then took a moment to look around me, and discovered what had befallen Liz’s family.
In the scheme of things, an unpublished book is nothing. A non-problem.
And, as a wise friend pointed out to me in the days following, the two messages arrived in the right order.
And everyone who has read the manuscript raves, and says it’s bound to be published somewhere good.
And so I feel guilty, deeply Catholicly guilty, for being angry about this situation — for resenting the fact that I finished this manuscript a year and a half ago, and am still shopping it around to academic publishers who seem intent upon understanding interdisciplinary work as a marketing neither-nor rather than both-and. For hating that I write for a market in which it’s perfectly acceptable to tie up a manuscript for ten months (simultaneous submission making one persona non grata) and then just let it go. For dreading having to start this whole process over again, with no sense of its eventual outcome and a complete inability to move on until this project is finally, completely, put to bed. For hating the knowledge that circumstances that one can’t control — the economic health of academic publishing being completely outside my ken — can nonetheless leave one feeling like an abject failure.
For being so concerned about my bruised ego when I’ve just been given a prize that any number of folks would happily trade publishing histories with me for. When my loved ones and I are happy, and healthy, and alive.
And so I haven’t posted, because I just haven’t known what to say. But in order for me to get back to writing, it’s got to be said.