Dear Miss Snark,
Thank you for taking the time to eviscerate me. I admire the style with which you have eviscerated those before me. I am writing to you regarding my novel Title Redacted, complete at 129,000 words.
Haunted by her mother’s suicide, Daisy Gray stuffs her pockets with a dozen stone eggs, carved by her grandfather to woo her grandmother, and jumps off the edge of the deepest quarry in Cobble County. But as she descends through its icy waters, she begins to suspect that it is neither fate nor granite which causes her to sink: she is drowning under the weight
of all the things her family has not told her.
For generations the women of Daisy’s family have been too busy keeping their own secrets to tell each other anything. As Daisy’s mother Sarah attempts to cook and clean her way to inner peace, she discovers bitter seeds hidden in her heart, like caraway baked into rye. (I thought she was dead...wait, wait, I know...you really liked The Lovely Bones, I get it) When Daisy’s aunt Ruth, a librarian with an aversion to metaphor, is charged with the literary legacy of local playwright Carmina Bone, she chooses poetry over truth with consequences that reverberate through time--all the way forward to Daisy and all the way back to old half-mad Carmina herself, who has revealed everything in her strange play, if only anyone had eyes to see.
Into the mix are thrown the men: an honest arsonist, a house builder living in shambles, a beekeeper who converses with his bees, a centenarian grave carver who cannot seem to die despite his best efforts, and a black bear who may or may not be Carmina’s lover.
As Daisy falls through the water, the secrets of the Gray family are revealed in intertwining narratives spanning three generations. Strongly plotted but contemplative, Title Redacted is a meditation on family mythology and the power of imagination for redemption but also for self-delusion and madness. Daisy’s descent into the quarry and an act from Carmina’s play bracket each of the book’s four sections.
My play, Title Redacted, which appears in the novel as Carmina’s work, was a finalist in An Obscure Theater Festival. I hold an MA in Classics but left my PhD program to work in the Antarctic, where much of this book was written long hand. I now live in Oslo, where
I am midway through another Cobble County novel aboutCarmina’s girlhood.
May I send you a few chapters? Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward hearing from you.
I don't even know where to start.
This is like a Rubik's Cube. There are so many sentences that I'm sure some of them go together but every time I try to make it work, it just gets more jumbled.
Remember, I'm not carefully reading this with tons of time to ponder literary cleverness. You've got about ten seconds on a good day to show me something wonderful.
Get in, get out. Tell me the heroine and her problem. Let me read the first page wherein you show me you can write. All this stuff about how the chapters are bracketed, and insight born of oxygen deprivation just gets in the way.
Chapter 1 / Daisy Gray / 1999
The day Daisy Gray jumped from the edge of the deepest quarry in Cobble County, an early hard freeze killed the asters and mums that local gardeners had planted for fall color. No one was greatly surprised. Living so far north, they expected as much. So far north,
winter was always near. So far north, there could be frost in May and snow in August.
Daisy lowered herself over the squat cement barrier that blocked the sheer edge of Cobble quarry. The extracted granite, cut for foundations and curbs, but primarily for tombstones, left a socket in the earth, like a pulled tooth leaves in a jawbone, where rain and snowmelt collected. Limping down the path that led to an outcropping below, Daisy wondered if it
would snow. The sky had the same flat milky surface as the quarry water.
Her aunt Ruth had once told her that a powder of stone--Ruth called it “stone flour”--tinged the water its odd shade. The particles, fine as ash, were a byproduct of the copious sanding and honing required to fashion raw blocks of granite into gravestones. The dust filled the local stonecutters’ lungs, drowning them on dry land. They died like flies carving other men’s monuments, perishing of other men’s deaths. It was a circumstance that had always
struck Daisy as the end to some morbid riddle, as every Cobble County schoolchild knew gravestone solved:
The man who made it does not want it.
The man who bought it does not need it.
The man who needs it does not know it.
Daisy tripped on the long hem of her bridesmaid’s dress and knocked her sore foot painfully against a rock, setting it throbbing. Cobble County had boomed through the Great War: all those young men dead, demanding stones to keep them underground. But soon afterwards, the quarries had sputtered closed, leaving the county riddled with dozens of pits like the one
Miss Snark sets hair on fire...
but first a word from our sponsors.
(five minutes later)
Miss Snark, in a fit of Crapometer frustration has set her hair on fire.
If you're going to drop some girl into the quarry, get on with it.