I have lived in New York City my entire life. I often feel privileged to be a part of the energy and magic of this Mecca of celebrity. Under the semi privileged dome of my existence, I encounter the rich and famous at every turn. When I was a teenager, I crossed paths with Jerry Lewis in Times Square and bumped elbows once with Marvin Gaye. As a passionate college student of Cinema Studies, I dined across the room from Woody Allen and stopped to compliment his latest film. At Café Des Artiste, a rather high end restaurant in Manhattan, I was celebrating my thirty-fourth birthday when lo and behold, charismatic Mayor Lindsey walked past my table. At a function at the World Trade Center many moons ago, I stood next to Barbara Walters and had a chat about something terribly mundane. I walked away feeling we were friends. I caught the eye of Andy Warhol window shopping on Madison Avenue, admired Faye Dunaway on Fifth and called after Joni Mitchel on the corner of forty-second and third, just to say I was a fan.
I could go on and on. Bill Clinton even used the bathroom in my building once. This is truth. I guess he couldn’t hold it and his bodyguard entered our lobby to announce the dilemma. I believe my doorman has a photo of the cherished night. Not Bill on the john of course, just Bill and Pete, the doorman. So I didn’t actually see Bill but my doorman did.
I’m not bragging about any of this but I do live in New York. I’ve gone to charity dinners with actors, singers and statesmen. I’ve been lucky enough to spend my summers in East Hampton where celebrity is as common as sand and lets not forget, Bill Clinton used the bathroom in my apartment building.
But here’s the rub. In all my years living in this fair city I have never met a literary agent, or even seen one close up. Being a writer who’s having a hard time getting published, this is a sad fact. They don’t seem to live anywhere near me. They’re certainly never in my neighborhood and we have a lot of good restaurants on the upper west side. I can’t help wondering where they do eat. They don’t show up at the same parties across town and they don’t even drink at the same bar. I never even sat next to one on an airplane.
Where do you think they are? Hiding from me, perhaps? Do they see me coming, hungry for representation and run for the burbs? Do I give away my yearning for them in my expression, my need to be discovered, appreciated and signed on? Do I have to find a conference in which to pitch my precious novel? Why can’t we have a friendly chat in the elevator? Why can’t I find their missing pooch and emerge a hero, why aren’t they related to my Aunt Em? Where the hell are these people?
I would know one if I saw one, I’m quite sure. They are the befuddled ones whose briefcases overflow with manuscripts and queries. They wear formula friendly smiles and Next Bestseller buttons on their lapels. I think they only come out in the daytime because they have to go home and write rejection letters. This takes practically the whole night so most of them have circles under their eyes. I think they only speak to one another because they don’t really know what makes the average reader tick; they think it’s just about clothing the same characters in different color khakis. So maybe they’re the zoned out sleepyheads on the subway listening to the same CD over and over again. You know who I’m talking about; they’re the people asleep behind their sunglasses, lattes and ipods, exhausted by the latest seminar on What the Industry Wants. Maybe they’re really jaded, so much so that the words in the books they read run into each other and one good novel is just like any other. They’re probably not aware anymore that Tolstoy is not the Russian word for “hello” and Jane Eyre is not a brand name for refrigeration. This isn’t because they’re stupid, it’s just that their minds are too full of the contemporary maze of repetition and when you put so much time in trying to find the next New York Times bestseller, you forget things.
I keep looking for agents all over the place despite their shortcomings. After all, I’m a writer and my manuscripts need a mommy or daddy who will believe in them and sell my book’s screen rights or get me a major publishing deal. I mean, after all, I’m told that’s what they do for a living. Don’t they need me as much as I need them?
Well, I’ll be patient. I guess they’ll find me when the time is right. And like a Vampire after blood, they’ll emerge out of their misty obscurity, charming me into believing they’ve been there all along, just waiting for the richness of my words, the taste of my appeal.
Once they devour me with promise, I will be theirs forever. I’ll see them flying through the cavern of my dreams, their faces close, the contract of eternal representation in their hands. As these prolific little pundits move from shadow into form, their eyes burrowed in my manuscript, at last; their image, finally, clear as a dime store novel plot, I’ll tip my writer’s hat and welcome the occasion, as if the absence of these literary phantoms, was never felt.
Vera Jane Cook
Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006. The book has received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category. Vera’s next book, Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough, will be published in 2008. Vera Jane Cook has completed five novels and is presently working on a non-fiction book about getting creative in corporate America. Vera also plans to give seminars on the subject. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com
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