I’ve found that my relationship with each book I’ve written changes over time. This must be true for other writers. We work intensely on the manuscript, through the endless revisions and copyedits, deeply engaged, and then the book goes out into the world. Done, finished. We’re proud, thrilled, hopeful. Our minds then turn to the next task, radars up, our occupation of daydreams and research.
Meanwhile, the world does what it does.
I’ve found that my feelings about the book shift in subtle ways according to the response it receives. The reviews, certainly. There are sales reports and Amazon rankings and the craziness of GoodReads and the tone in my editor’s voice, who gives good news or says little.
Should I ask? I decide not to ask. Better not to ask.
And worst of all, that slippery thing: The Buzz Factor. Likes and shares and retweets and the cold, clammy horror of being ignored on social media.
You learn, once again, that you have not written an “it” book. Entertainment Weekly will not be calling. Oprah isn’t enthralled. Even Betsy Bird doesn’t seem to care.
Friends kindly ask, “How’s the book doing?”
And I think: Gee, I don’t know, but whatever it is doing, it is doing it very, very quietly. Because after all it’s a book — a silent slothlike creature moving stealthily about the forest, unaccompanied by fanfare and timbrels.
The feeling, accurate or not, is this: I made a book and the world just shrugged. It can be dispiriting. A vague disappointment settles into the pit of the stomach. A small distance creeps in between the book and me.
Stupid, I know.
And, in fact, monumentally stupid because before all that outside stuff wedged between us, I knew I had written a good book. Maybe even a very good book. Even so, the world so often yawns. Life goes on pretty much exactly as before.
The response to the book can create a rift between author and object. Maybe I don’t love it as much anymore. Maybe something’s wrong with it, or wrong with me. The perceived world’s indifference gets in the way.
Then time passes.
And for some reason I pick up the book I wrote four years ago and leaf through the pages. Parts surprise me. There are passages where I think: Hey, that’s pretty good. And in that moment, the book returns to me, it comes back like a bounding, beloved hound that had crawled under the fence for one long, wretched night.
Returned home again. Found.
So to celebrate that reunion, and the good things — and the extraordinary things, nominated for the Sakura Medal in Japan — that the world has given back about The Fall, I thought I’d share a small section of the story. It is a book about hard things written in short, accessible chapters. Here’s one example, where Sam writes in his journal about Morgan, who has died. He describes a moment between them that never happened. At least, not in the way he imagines.
(Don’t worry, folks. Here’s a blow up that you can actually see with human eyes.)
I hear you. Nice that you rediscovered the book for yourself, though.
Thanks. It’s especially true when a book goes out of print. It feels like a failed book — even if, by any decent measure, it isn’t.