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The Book I Will Write #52: Why Would Anyone Want to Write a Book Anyway?

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 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.

#52  WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO WRITE A BOOK ANYWAY?

Mr. Henry F,

I’ve decided I like writing to you. I like knowing things about you. You live in the library. You have a girlfriend you’ve never seen. You want to write a book.

These things are connected. If you gave up on writing the book, you could get a job. You could get a place to live. You could see your girlfriend and not be afraid of smelling like a homeless person.

Also, you could live longer. Hint, hint.

Why would anyone want to write a book anyway? I know other, better ways of achieving personal glory, and the odds are a lot better. Do you think you’re doing mankind a favor? Do you think anyone really cares whether you write a book or not? Do you think anyone cares what you have to say?

I don’t know if you know this, but other people have lives these days. If they want to read something, they can just get on Facebook and read status updates before they watch videos of baby animals. They’ve got TV, too.  Movies and music and video games. And when everything else fails, I think they could talk to each other.

Books are way down the list. And when someone wants a book, why should they pick yours when they can choose from a million other books that remind them of TV shows or their favorite baby animals?

So, I mean, who are you? Who do you think you are? Why would you think anyone cares whether or not you write a book?

You know what? I care! I care a lot!

I care enough to kill you.

You should thank me for that. If I didn’t want to kill you, writing your book would have no meaning. I make it dangerous. I make it thrilling. Heroic. I raise the stakes and give you a cause.

You’re welcome.

Too bad for you I’m a man of my word.

I’ve been hitchhiking. I just stopped off to send you this note. See you soon!

Sincerely,

E

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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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