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The Book I Will Write #72: On a Macro Level, I Care

flemingTHE 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 was living at the library following a kidnapping episode with The Zeppelin Society. Fleming recruited a library memoir group to help him confront his would-be killer. After a tense showdown, Fleming disappeared, seemingly kidnapped again by The Zeppelin Society.

#72  ON A MACRO LEVEL, I CARE

Dear John Henry Fleming,

I’m writing this final email to forestall you from contacting me about your book.

Don’t do it.

I need to get my life back. I have my life back, and I want to keep it. I have my job back. My freedom. I kicked Seamus to the curb, and when he came back begging, I kicked him there again.

You’ve already explained in great detail how you’re writing a book, or planning to. I understand that. And I understand you want me to care about it and help you. I do care. On a macro level, I care. But I can no longer afford to think on a macro level. I have other things right here in front of me, and if I don’t attend to them, they can be taken away. That’s my lesson from the weeks in jail.

Plus, I have actual manuscripts to consider. They appear on my desk. Before me now is one written by a library writing group calling themselves the Grandmoirs  I haven’t read one word and I already know I’m going to publish it. If it’s bad, we can hire someone to make it good. The draw of a septuagenarian writing group hitting it big is too promising to pass up. Imagine them on the Today show. Imagine them on Oprah. I’ll write the damn thing myself if I have to.

That’s the state of things.

As for me, I can’t think of the past anymore, and I can’t use you to do it. I wish I knew who you were, but it’s better I don’t. I invite you now to retreat into the past that I will from now on seriously avoid thinking about, and I hope you have a happy life there. I admire you for living in a different world. I admire your faith and your endless optimism, which I hope for your sake is not also a bottomless pit. In any case, I’m blocking your email address.

All my best to you, John Henry Fleming. May you someday have what you want.

Sincerely,

Roberta Hollymore
Senior Editor
Knopf

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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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