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The Book I Will Write #43

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. He’s been kicked out of his apartment, and is now living at the library following a kidnapping episode with The Zeppelin Society. Now he’s being stalked by the murderous son of Reid Markham, the author of The Devil’s Good Graces, a book Fleming is trying to track down and read as an influence to his own, still unwritten, novel. Annie, the editorial assistant, has been filling in at Knopf while her boss is in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct.

 

AUTHOR SEEKS STORY LADY FOR NARRATIVE ROMP

 

Mary Ann “Annie” Lankowski

Interim Senior Editor

Knopf Publishing

 

Dear Annie,

That’s exciting news about you being made Interim Senior Editor. Maybe if you squat the job long enough, they’ll have to make you permanent. I don’t know how those things work. I’ve only ever had part-time jobs.

I’m starting to miss those quiet days when I could exchange emails with you from the comfort of my cold attic apartment. Here in the library, I have to keep my guard up. Someone could be reading my emails. Someone could be coming through the front door. Or sneaking up behind me. Or pulling me away from an unfinished email because my time is up.

Q: Is it ever okay to be paranoid?

A: Yes, when people are out to get you.

I’ve started spying on the Story Lady, which makes me feel like a character in an allegory. In the allegory, my character would write a personal: Author seeks Story Lady for narrative romp. We’d hook up, the story sparks would fly, and afterwards I’d go back home recharged with a hundred new ideas. Here in real life, the Story Lady is unapproachable, and I don’t have a home to go back to.

So I position myself at a table where I can follow her movements behind the front desk and into the glass office behind it. The Story Lady always looks deeply involved in what she’s doing, whether she’s helping the circulation clerks or reviewing children’s books at her desk. At Story Time, she addresses the children with the ideal combination of earnestness and playfulness. Each day, the children fall in love with her again.

I’ve started sleeping late in the closet just so I can catch the first two Story Times through the door crack.  There’s a risk because she might spot me leaving the room after the second Story Time. But it’s worth it just to hear her read.

More to the point, I’m spying on her so I can track down her copy of The Devil’s Good Graces. Unless she took it home, it’s in the library somewhere. It might be in her office, but after hours the office doors are locked and I can see through the glass that it’s not on her desk.

It looks like I’m going to have to strike up a conversation with the Story Lady. That scares me. The Story Lady is otherworldly. Anything could happen. And once I’ve introduced myself, she’ll notice me around the library, all day, every day. I could be found out.

It’s a risk, but I’ve decided to take it. I’ll tell you what happens.

One day soon, I’ll have my novel written. With the advance money, I’ll get my own place. Then we can be co-pathetic together.

Yours,

John Henry Fleming

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About John Henry Fleming

John Fleming's stories have appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The North American Review, Mississippi Review, Fourteen Hills, and Carve, among others. He is the author of The Legend of the Barefoot Mailman, a novel, and Fearsome Creatures of Florida, a literary bestiary. He teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the founder and advisory editor for Saw Palm: florida literature and art. He blogs at johnhenryfleming.com.

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  1. Sarah Floyd
    December 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Haha — co-pathetic! Must remember that term.

    When does John Henry eat if he’s at the library 24/7? He seems to survive on library dust and air, with no complaints about an empty belly. Maybe he rifles through the trash at night, looking for staff lunch throw-aways, but shares that he hankers for a real meal. Perhaps this already came up in an earlier post, I am still catching up.