9.09.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #99 plus 8

Dear Miss Snark,

I am looking for an agent for a narrative-driven literary novel titled "A Wedding, Water."

The wedding is a game, a bluff, a make-you-say-first "I want. I care. I do." A game like all the other unfulfilled, naked, squirming teases between them. So what if they've shared a bed since they first met months ago and they still haven't "done it" yet? It's crazy high stakes. And fun. And Ellen won't let a few nosy guests asking if she's pregnant ruin her weekend wedding along the northern California coast. She won't be distracted by a friend claiming "rights" to her and offering to give her an abortion. (YUCK YUCK YUCK...ZAP) Just give her time to plan her next move. But it may be too late. Two of the groom's guests, a couple unraveling after years of infidelity and too much drink, are pulling her into their self-destruction and discontent. The fighting has begun. And then on the water in a skiff off the shore, there is a shameful accident. Or something worse.

"A Wedding, Water" is a novel with tone: crackling high nervousness, squeamish second-guessing, and outlandish mockery. It neither fetishizes the wedding ceremony, nor worships the grit of commitment. It is about tantrums and angry shouts, the awkward forced intimacy of friends of friends, and not too little flirting. The dialogue is juicy, often witty, usually rude, and readers may find it reminiscent--in spirit--of an Edward Albee play.

Some characters here were taken from work I wrote that received the University of ABC's Blank award. Enclosed is an SASE and the first ten pages of the manuscript. It starts with a pouncing invitation. The complete manuscript is 85,000 words. Please let me know if you are interested in seeing any more of it.

Many thanks for your time.

Sincerely,


wtf?
I'm repulsed and confused. I think there's a movie about this. Oh wait, no, Dazed and Confused. That too.

You're so busy telling me what this is, you're showing me you can't write a focused paragraph.
This is a form rejection right here.

Chapter One

An invitation, of sorts

You.
You are invited. We want you to come. (To come is what you want.) (If I didn't stop at the query, I'd stop here) The honor of your presence is hereby requested. We beg you; we plead. We do. This wedding screams for your attendance and the screams are so loud. Come to be seen and to see. You are like everybody else but better. (Or not. Who knows? It does not matter to us.) Your face has been slated for its warmth and its heft. Your smile is there to hide disbelief and momentary horror. It is your beacon and shield, that which persuades and protects. Lips and teeth, air, words and bite.
You will join, participate, be forced upon.
As you so sweetly know, a wedding is more than vows, more than twenty minutes to fill with the up and down traipsing of aisles, the staring at of dresses and gowns (the fingering of silk and panties), of untucked shirts and skin that welters under collars. It is the uneasy pondering of the minister's hands. It is the crying of tears both spontaneous and calculated. The excited shrieks of newborn babes. The ushering of matrons in hairnets and flowered caps. (The deflated men shuffle in alone.) Search, search. Do you see it? Bride and groom say "I do," and when you hear the pact-clenching final smack of their lips are they not transformed before your very eyes? Maybe, maybe not, but a wedding is more than vows. It is a place like an Inn, secluded and rimmed with a second-story balcony where you will sit outside and breath for once (finally, at last!) the Pacific Ocean air. You will drink dry California champagne (all right! sparkling wine! we can't pull any more fast ones on you!) and specialty beer brewed in small private tanks. Is there more frosting or cake? There is Chilean sea bass steamed in parchment (a French word on the menu) and wands of asparagus, disposable cameras like so many breeding robotic crabs and a trick using South African coins, arguments over an "upset" boxing match, a pair of shoes whose owner cannot be found, and a child who wants her to see him pee.
A ghost, or whatever passes for a haunting nowadays.
Which day? A wedding is the day before, or more than one day, from the first drink to the last. From one young body to the next. (Some soft, some hard). A boy from a farm and boy from a film. (They are not boys.) Unmarried college sweethearts, a grope from unknown hands, a mysterious streak across the skies, boisterous, boisterous pride, and a mirror.


This is a mess.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This reads like a prose poem, not a novel.

Have you chosen the right form for your idea?

otto said...

I don't mind the idea of experiment in this and there is good imagery. It just goes on too long. You can't leave the reader out of the loop of understanding for this length of time.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for an agent for a narrative-driven literary novel titled "A Wedding, Water."
I'm surprised Miss Snark read as far as she did. I would've zapped this at the first line. ALL stories are narrative-driven. And Miss Snark also keeps saying you should mention the genre. "Literary novel" is not a genre. Would've been an automatic rejection from me.

December Quinn said...

Did the author mean to be so totally contemptuous of weddings and marriage? As a happily married person, I'd put this down immediately.

Bella Stander said...

If this is "narrative-driven," there should be, you know, a narrative. I sure didn't see one.

whitemouse said...

*flails*

Miss Snark, are you nuts? This is awesome!

Author, maybe you do need to tighten things up, but I think Miss Snark's disdain is a matter of taste. Query widely; there's an agent out there who will love this (I certainly did, and this isn't anything like what I normally read, or even close to my favourite genres).

I also liked your query a lot. It didn't tell me a damned thing about the book's plot, and that may be a problem, but it does capture the flavour and energy of your writing very well. It got my attention and certainly had me interested in seeing what the first page was going to be like.

Query widely; there's someone out there who will want this.

Janet Black said...

What the heck is this supposed to be? It doesn't seem to have any narrative form, nor does it seem to have any recognizable story, and it's missing its characters. It rambles. It isn't clever or interesting, I'm afraid.

theraspberrycordial said...

I think you really need to consider losing the brackets. I hate brackets, I don't know anyone who likes them, and they don't serve any purpose in this extract.

This is not my cup of tea, with or without brackets, but you obviously know how to write so kudos to you.

Virginia Miss said...

To me this reads more like poetry than prose, so I don't feel qualified to comment on the writing. I really liked some of the sentences but it's not something that would sustain my interest for 85,000 words.

Anonymous said...

And Miss Snark also keeps saying you should mention the genre. "Literary novel" is not a genre.

Literary fiction is a genre for query letter purposes, Anon 2. I'm an agent and when someone tells me they want me to read their literary novel I expect to see a book that experiments with language and form. Only problem is a lot of people mistakenly use this term to describe their mainstream fiction.... but that is not the case here. This is the real thing, and most people will hate it (sorry author). But some will like it. I found myself caught in its rhythms myself.

Rei said...

I enjoyed this. I really do.

Having said that, reading more than a few thousand words of it would be painful.

blissbat said...

Yay! I really like this. I like that it's ambitious and weird and daring. It's not done, I don't think -- too much preciousness, not enough hook yet to pull the reader through the prose -- but yay! You seem to have a spark.

This feels like something that could be pruned into a really good style as long as you have a critquer who isn't too steeped in the MFA world. A single false note will make the whole thing collapse, so the editing will have to be immaculate. I want to read more! (Then again, I think The Waves is Woolf's best book, so I'm a weirdo.)

Anonymous said...

Every other line in this is something very weird that is nothing to do with weddings, that is--

"You will join, participate, be forced upon."

"the fingering of silk and panties"

"From one young body to the next."

"and a child who wants her to see him pee."

WHAT??? Replace the theme "wedding" with "weird sex party" and the piece actually reads better.

Strange use of the word "welter" in the line "skin that welters under collars." They're sweating that much that the skin is submerged?

Forget the fact that I get offended when people tell me how I feel, one reason why I dislike 2nd person prose. (You want to come) Oh yeah? Well, you want to go back to school.

one of the 359 said...

I hope you're not discouraged by Miss Snark or some of the comments. I think what you've written here the is the "guts" of your story--your theme. Very necessary, but we don't walk around in public with our guts hanging out. This reads like a very creative, strong first draft. You need to go back in and communicate what it is you're trying to say. You know your theme--now forget about it and tell your story. I think as you keep working, you'll come back to this passage and chop it down to size or cut it altogether.

Jo Bourne said...

A work of literary fiction experiments with the language. Words are set in its sky as respectfully and carefully as stars.

This passage is ... slovenly.


Let me grab one of the many sentences that annoyed me ...

.... It is a place like an Inn, secluded and rimmed with a second-story balcony where you will sit outside and breath for once (finally, at last!) the Pacific Ocean air. ...

'It is' --- I hate 'it'. Wasted word. Wasted opportunity. 'My haven is', 'your destination is', 'the last homely house is', 'the monkey house at the zoo is'. For 'it' substitute a noun of substance and specificity.

'place' - another flabby word. Use habitation, sanctuary, retreat, bastion, fun-palace, haunted house. Use a noun that packs some meaning.

'Inn' --- in caps for some weird reason. Looks random?

'secluded'and 'rimmed'. --- We have two unrelated, non-parallel ideas about the inn, thrown into the same sentence like squirming kittens into a sack. The pairing is good enough for ordinary prose, but not for poetry or literary fiction.
What we got is a vapid, meaningless structural element that's a waste of a sentence.

'rimmed with a second-story balcony' -- which says the balcony goes all the way around the building, like the porch on a Louisiana antebellum manor. Possible, but unlikely.

'where you will sit outside' -- as opposed to all those folks sitting on the balcony inside. Faugh!

'and breath' -- I am reminded of the general rule expressed by Tom Lehrer as -- 'Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell.'

'at last!)' --- Oh good! An exclamation point! to add emphasis! Now we don't have to add emphasis! by clever and exciting! writing!

'for once (finally, at last!) the Pacific Ocean air.' --- Which they did not smell flying into SFX.


My advice to the writer would be to leave school (either literally or mentally) and write a few manuscripts that need plot, narrative drive, and an enticement to emotional involvement -- mystery, romance, S.F., erotica, YA, humor.

Learn basic technique within a structured and demanding format. THEN return to literary fiction.

Anonymous said...

I love good literary fiction. But I've read this three times and the only thing I can think is, 'What??'

Clearly the writer is great with words - he or she uses them with a lot of ease, fluency and flair. But that's not enough. This piece is all about playing with words and images and looking very very clever, and NOTHING to do with story or character.

Judging purely by this excerpt, I'd say get over yourself, forget about how good you are with language, and focus on plot and character. That fluency will come through in every line anyway, I guarantee you - and it'll pack a lot more punch if it's being used as a means to further your plot and characterisaction, rather than as an end in itself.

YA writer said...

Too long.

Too pompous.

The writer is showing off--drawing too much attention to his own voice. When you read you shouldn't be thinking about the author, you should be thinking about the story. When I read this I feel like the writer is trying too hard to sound "literary."

And we wonder why Miss Snark calls it the Crapometer.

Anonymous said...

I can't find any "lip smacking" involved in saying the words "I do".
Literary is not the same as sloppy -- if it's all a jumble of images, they can't fall flat.

tmack said...

Hee hee hee.

Dear Writer

You just took me back 10 years to auditions in a cold school gymnasium where I sat watching monologue after monologue as my spine seized up.

Midday, in walked a young girl, thin, pretty and pursed. Without introducing herself, she looked at us, took her mark, struck a pose with her hand to the heavens and started to recite the world's longest monologue - a climactic scene from "Prometheus Bound".

After the first minute of ardent emoting, a huge sense of "her" filled the room. It was Girl Versus the Monologue. She was gaining, phrase after phrase, relentlessly. The monsterlogue was chewed up and spat out. On and on it went, without end.

Finally, I looked over at my cohort, and we noticed that Girl really had no idea we were there. We cracked a smirk. It was absurd. I felt like her bedroom mirror. We interrupted her. She didn’t notice. We called out, “Thank you”. She looked over, irritated at the interruption, still posed.

We said, “Thank you, no.”

I'm not making a direct comparison, but my feeling reading this was very similar; the writer overshadows everything else. Plus, it just doesn’t read as a story (that being the lesser issue for me).

Dionne Brand comes to mind as a writer who has mastered both poetry and poetic prose. You might want to check her out.