PARISIANISM FOR BEGINNERS: THE LAURENCE REMILA COLUMN:
CONFESSIONS OF AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER (part one)
"A paperback edition of my girlfriend's novel comes out today. We've known each other since February, been boyfriend and girlfriend since late July and she's read about seven chapters -- out of 44 -- of my manuscript so far. To say this rankles is an understatement. I watch "Lucia y el sexo" for the sixth time, and wonder about this companion who doesn't even read me?"
By Laurence Rémila
COPYRIGHT © 2003, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Saturday October 18: Found in Yours Truly's letter-box: "Monsieur, Nous vous remercions de nous avoir communiqué votre roman intitulé : 'George Costanza, c'est moi'. Malheureusement, notre production étant très réduite, nos choix en sont d'autant plus restrictifs. Ainsi nous a-t-il semblé que votre livre ne correspondait pas à ce que nous recherchons pour nos collections. Avec nos regrets, nous vous prions d'agréer, Monsieur, l'expression de nos sentiments distingués. [Illegible squiggle that looks like the 'M' of Mandrake the Magician] Editions P.O.L."
This, for you who don't speak the fair tongue of Molière and Dick Rivers, translates as: "Fuck off, bozo."
It's my first rejection letter (for my literary endeavours, s'entend), and it sends me in a black funk that will last the whole weekend. But first, let's go back a few months to:
Early August 2003: I decide to finish with my George Costanza, c'est moi (not the actual title, I'm afraid) which I've been writing -- on and off, mostly off -- since Summer 2001. It contains every avant-garde conceit going, as well as cameos from the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, sundry Black Panthers, most of my friends, the Virgin Mary... You get the idea. Just the kind of object that pouting PR girls and harried hacks can push onto that unsuspecting sap, Joe Public, as "un OVNI littéraire". Or, more likely, the kind of thing that ends up with a record number of rejection letters. One Friday afternoon, I drop the beast off at a handful of Rive Gauche publishers -- P.O.L., Verticales, Grasset, Flammarion and Denoël -- and post it to a couple of others -- Au Diable Vauvert and Editions de l'Olivier.
A week later: L'Olivier send the manuscript back ("Unknown at this address" -- ???). An intern from Au Diable Vauvert sends an e-mail saying they've received the thing, while Tristram send a letter saying the same thing.
Later still: At a fairly grim dinner organised by the editor of a lit-revue, I meet the head of lit at one of the big publishers. Let's call her The Editrice and her employer Fagooney. By two a.m., the group has retreated to the Mathis Bar, and Yours Truly is blind DRUNK. I tell The Editrice that I'm thinking of destroying my "novel", and why. She's intrigued and I hand her a one-page synopsis of the thing. After reading it attentively, she turns to me and asks: "This novel, it… exists?" "Yes". She asks me to bring a copy of the manuscript to her office in September.
Thursday, September 4: A paperback edition of my girlfriend's novel comes out today. We've known each other since February, been boyfriend and girlfriend since late July and she's read about seven chapters -- out of 44 -- of my manuscript so far. To say this rankles is an understatement. I watch "Lucia y el sexo" for the sixth time, and wonder about this companion who doesn't even read me?
Friday, September 19: I meet The Editrice. Over the summer, I worked on a series of short stories, which I was going to give her instead of the novel. But this past week, I reread George Costanza, c'est moi, and believed in it once more. I therefore rid it of two superfluous chapters, rewrote the first one and got rid of about six thousand words. When we meet, we talk of Djian, of Fitzgerald and others, but not of the manuscript. As I take my leave, she tells me: "I'll either read it tomorrow, on the train taking me to a literary festival, or in three weeks."
Wednesday, September 24: In the evening, I find myself at the Café de Flore, sharing a table with a dozen of Paris' literati. Frédéric Beigbeder, head of lit at Flammarion, is also present. From the way he greets me, I figure he's not aware of my having sent him a copy of the manuscript.
Saturday, October 18: Back to where we started. There's the rejection letter from P.O.L. And Fagooney haven't been in touch. As for the girlfriend, well, she hasn't read another page.
P.S.: Okay, Andrew, I finally got an e-mail from a girl. Only, she lives in New Orleans. What am I meant to do with that? Come on. You told me you had girls reading this thing here in Paris. That was the only reason I agreed to your terms, and you know it. And six months of doing this have shown me that it just isn't true... Also, PLEASE stop printing my post-scripts. This is PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE, ferchrissakes.
Laurence Rémila has been living in Paris for six years. A freelance journalist, he writes for sundry serious titles he won't list here, as well as The Idler and French monthly Technikart.