The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming is a serial novel-in-emails about a would-be writer named John Henry Fleming who is desperate to publish a book. THE BOOK I WILL WRITE is a work in progress; readers are invited to make comments and influence the outcome. Fleming has been exchanging emails with an editorial assistant and a senior editor at Knopf, as well as with an agent. Here is the assistant’s latest reply.
YOUR BAGGAGE-FREE EX-LOVER
Dear John Henry,
I want to confess something.
I printed out our email exchanges and took them home. I didn’t want to forward them to my gmail account, and I didn’t want to access the Knopf server from home. I think they can trace that, and it’s probably against company policy.
Back home, I got on my pajamas, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat cross-legged on my bed while I read your emails. This was like 6 p.m. on a Thursday night.
I laughed and sighed in just the way someone would laugh and sigh as she reads a stack of old letters from a former lover. You were so cute and earnest in your first email. I think you were nervous, too. Were you?
I get maudlin easy. After my third glass of wine, I started crying. I was inconsolable.
I’m sure my roommate thought I was crazy. She slammed the door when she left. Do you think I’m crazy?
It doesn’t matter. I’ve decided it’s better to have a former lover than an actual one. And not just any former lover. I need a former lover without the baggage that an actual former lover carries.
You know how it is. There’s the pain of break-up, the lingering bitterness, and if the relationship went on long enough, the petty annoyances that built themselves up over time like the Hoover Dam. If you dwell on your former lover—by re-reading his letters or emails for example—believe me, all that stuff starts coming back.
The way it is with us, I have your emails without the baggage. And somehow I still also have the feeling we used to be lovers. It’s ideal. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I’m saying it’s better just to pretend the whole thing.
It’s something I’m trying out, anyway.
I bet Ms. Hollymore and Mr. Shill wish it had been this way with them. Did you know they used to be lovers? Ancient history, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I guess that’s how he ended up representing Reid Markham.
It’s funny how you can’t find Markham’s book in your local library. Maybe it’s just been mis-shelved. I haven’t read The Devil’s Good Graces. I remember once in college it was on the syllabus for a contemporary lit course I took, but either we never got around to it or the book was already out of print. If you find a copy, I bet it’s worth something.
Send me another letter soon. I don’t want to get bored reading the same emails over and over! I’d have to drink more, and I don’t want to end up like Ms. Hollymore.
Oh, I almost forgot. I’m not the one who referred you to Mr. Shill. I don’t know who did, but I promise it wasn’t me. I wouldn’t do that to you.
Your Baggage-Free Ex-Lover,