Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sorree, It's No For Mee

Here's a form rejection letter from an agent I've never heard of before: Sheree Bykofsky. You've got to love the creative spelling of her first name?  Also, she seems rather earnest and sorry (sorree?) to give you the slip.


Anonymous said...

This is totally off the subject, but you mentioned, a while back, that you loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. So, because I want to get a handle on your tastes (and maybe the nature of your writing?), I got the book from the library.
The first (brief) part, about the young Oscar, was wondrous. Well, maybe not wondrous, but very engaging. The rest of the book (to the point where I stopped wasting my time on it, in the midst of the Junior chapter) steadily progressed downward, til it was a complete mess. The characters were weak fabrications, the whole structure was a patchwork quilt (stuffed with padding, to make a novel), the language was gimmicky and repetitive. The book became silly (how old is Junot Diaz - 12?).
And so on and on: very good short story, very bad novel.
Why all the praise? Maybe because Diaz is a “minority” voice who made it to Boston/New York literary parties (where I suspect he is very impressive). Immigrant, came up the hard way, of dark complexion. He milks all this, coming on with bad-mouth street-smart Dominican attitude, as if he spends a lot of time rapping with the homeboys. It sounds authentic, but it’s the ultimate in phoniness.

Anonymous said...

It's probably pronounced sha-REE. In my high school there were 3 sha-REE's, here are the spellings of their names:

Cherie (ok I guess, it's French)

I can't believe I remember that.

The Rejection Queen said...

I got this same letter like two years ago...she's full of it lol.

Ann'onimus said...

with commenter #2, it may also be pronounced sha-RAY, like how the name Desiree is prounced des-i-RAY.

in any case, nothing could be worse than Khrysteena.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rejected Writer, hope you're well. Have you seen an essay by Muriel Spark called, "Emerging from UNder your Rejection Slip?" Wonder if you would excerpt it on your site.

Also -- have you thought about running a feature on all the firings of editors and what it all means? It seems very extreme and in some cases completely unexpected. Old timers of the publishing industry say, "no big deal" but I think the choices were pretty surprising.

Take care,

another writer

Writer, Rejected said...

These are awesome ideas, AW. I gratefully accept them and will got on it. (Also, with ideas like that, you best start your own blog.)

a contrarian said...

ok off topic, but i just had to play a little contrarian:

@anon #1

have you read drown? read "ysrael" or "fiesta, 1984" and tell me those aren't great.

i would be interested in hearing what you find *do* find wondrous. it's very easy to hate. much harder to love.

i'll play. here are some things i love: bolano. hemingway. the way diane keaton sings in annie hall. etc.

Writer, Rejected said...

Yeah, for me, by far, Oscar was the best novel I've read in a long, long time. Thoroughly engaging and challenging with cultural depth and breadth, deeply steeped in the literature of his peeps. I loved every page. Thought it was brill! I'll be happy if my novel (which really couldn't be more different) is half of what his is.

Anonymous said...

I agree about Diane Keaton.
I love a lot of things. A lot.
But I don't care for baloney.

Minority Lover said...

Ooh Contrarian, you're so cultural. But I'll take up the issue that #1 raised:

I'm married to a real Hispanic. Not a tan-skinned-American, but a person who was born and raised in South America and didn't learn English until about 10 years ago. A real minority voice.

When I read fiction by tan-American writers who exploit some ethnic roots, I just roll my eyes. Insert some italicized palabras here and there and you've got yourself a critics' darling. Puh-leeeeez! I should submit my spouse's grocery list to VQR and it will probably get published as a featured poem.

Junot Diaz is as American as it gets. The pseudo-ethnic minority backdrop doesn't impress me.

Writer, Rejected said...

Hello? Are you serious? Oscar Wao is a story about D.R. immigrants coming to this country with stories and folk-lore.

Do you feel okay about wiping out an entire American story, the story of preserving one's culture in the melting pot, in one sentence?

Tan-Americans? pseudo-ethnic minorities? You must live in the REAL AMERICA with the REAL AMERICANS. Not me. That must be why I thought his book was pure genius.

Minority Lover said...

Huh? You don't know what race(s) I am or where I live. Get over yourself WR. Darin Strauss, Junot Diaz, Ted Genoways, aren't reading the comments, you don't have to pretend that you that you are more high-minded than you are.

I found TBAWLOOW contrived and dull.

Writer, Rejected said...

That's fine, ML. But you miss the main points.

1) Why say Junot Diaz's experience is fake and exploitative? What writer's fiction isn't totally legitmate. Or does your marriage negate his experience as an American? Makes no sense.

2) My reference to "Real America" is from that genius Sarah Palin, who claimed during the recent presidential campaign that conservatives are the only one's who count, that their ideas are the true American ideas. Ideas like some people have real cultural experiences (especially if they're not Americans, and others are just "tan-skinned people" pretending to have had a real cultural (read: immigrant) experience. I don't know where you live, but I assume it is a much narrower world than the world I live in.

And, also, you can say a lot of bad shit about me that would be totally true, but that I write my comments for Darin Strauss, Junot Diaz, or Ted Genoways is not one of them.

I don't usually get involved in the comments this way, but I just spent a week taking care of my mother who had surgery, in a very red-neck part of the world, and unfortunately I had to spend a lot of time with my older brothers and father, who think a lot like you do, and tend to negate anyone else's experience, but their own.

Of course, they would never read Junot Diaz, but I'm sure that if they did they would write off his work as being unreal and illegit, just the blathering of another "tan-skinned American" "exploiting his ethnic roots."

Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

Minority fiction, or Ethnic Firction or whatever people what to call it here--authors, agents, and editors know that it's marketing gold.

Some of it is contrived and written by people who know it will sell, but some of it is earnest and touching and real. I don't think we can say ALL minority writers are just trying to cash in on their heritage just because some of them do. But there are definitely writers who do just that, and it gives a whole class of people a bad rep.

As commenter #1 says, Junot Diaz is one who "milks all this" but there are other minority voices, like Cristina Hernandez, who are more "real" to my mind.

But Junot Diaz fans are always so hard core gung ho about him, and I doubt anyone can change their minds.

Writer, Rejected said...

Dude: We just call it fiction here.

Anonymous said...

Are you criticizing a whole part of the country? The Red Neck World? Made up of people who live in what you deem is a narrow world - unlike the broad-minded world you exist in, alive with vital ideas, diversity, openness, etc?
Sounds like the exclusivity of Sarah Palin, except on a different track.
People use their race/origins to their advantage all the time. Whites sure as hell have done it; those from rich families do it.
What I see is that literary fiction has become exclusive - a Members-Only-Club (with the members wearing class rings from Iowa, Columbia, etc.). Diaz now belongs firmly in that world, and he's gotten in partly by using his race/origins.
In his Acknowledgments he thanks some very heavy hitters: Anita Desai ("who helped me land the MIT gig"), Julie Grau (publisher whose "faith and perseverance" etc, etc.) and Niclole Aragi (lit agent representing the likes of Foer, Whitehead, Dandicat, "who in eleven years never once gave up on me"). He's solid not with the homeboys but with the In Crowd. Why doesn't he write about that world?
I was open-minded enough about Oscar Wao to love the beginning. It was Diaz who steadily destroyed all my good will. He earned my disdain.
About loving, not hating. As regards literary matters, I love a lot of books, I hate exclusivity. Exclusivity is like in-breeding. Literary fiction is beginning to go the route of the Hapsburg Empire. Take a look at the portraits of those deformed Spanish kings.

Writer, Rejected said...

It's not about your not liking him, it's about your dismissing him as a "tan-American" and a "pseudo-ethnic minority" that I find problematic. You don't have to like anyone's fiction, but it's uncool to come around and call the guy inauthentic because he met a bunch of fancy people when his first book of stories was a very big success. Good for him.

And, though I'd very much like to discount the Red Neck World, I'm sure that Red Neck fiction is as authentic as any fiction. I just choose not to read it for personal reasons: I lived it. :-)

Luke Fiske said...

I am one hundred percent on WR's side here. This sounds like a case of jealousy exploding into--I won't say the word. Yes, it may be true some writer's exploit their backgrounds. If exploit is the word we want. And if we're talking about all writers.

Anonymous said...

Correction: I wrote the first (long-ignored) comment and the previous one (also the Diane Keaton/baloney one). I have not used the terms you attribute to me above.
Someone mentioned Muriel Spark. She wrote a semi-autobiographical novel (sorry, the name slips my mind). In her youth she was a reader at a prestigious London publishing firm. She soon learned that she wasn't supposed to actually read the manuscripts, just process the damn things. They only wanted "Names" (capital letter hers). She wrote - and this I remember verbatim - that submitting something unsolicited to them was like "sending your manuscript to sea in a sieve."
Kinda like sending something to the Boston Review.

kenny g said...

All I can say, is poor Sheree Bykovsky. You write a post making fun of her name's spelling, which she didn't choose by the way, and the Comments devolve into a discussion of Junot Diaz.

I don't know her, but I would guess from her name that Sheree is probably not the white bread Sarah Palin type of Americans that you are so far above.

If she had written a book about her immigrant heritage, and Junot Diaz had sent you a form rejection from the Boston review, would your snark be reversed?

Anonymous said...

Junot Diaz is John Updike with tan skin. They both write the same damn stories over and over and over again. I can't tell one JU story from the next or the last, and same with JD. And nobody's allowed to call them on it cuz they're established. And Luke Fiske will say you're just jealous. Only Difference is that in JD's case you get the PC police on your ass to boot if you don't care for his tired stories. Ayayay...

Writer, Rejected said...

I have been rejected by Junot Diaz, and I would too make fun of his name. But you're right; thos blog sucks. Who's on charge around here?

Writer, Rejected said...

BTW, I'd give an arm and a leg to write just one of the stories either of those guys have written. You people are tough customers! If you think JU & JD are schlocks, then who do you admire?

Anonymous said...

The baloney guy again.
I thought Updike's last two Rabbit books - Is Rich and At Rest - were great. (Skip the first two.) Rabbit Angstrom. What a character! Didn't know John had it in him. When he drops all the fancy trappings and writes simply, directly, he can be great. His collection, Olinger Stories, is one of the best; again: simple, direct writing.
You misspelled Alice Munro's name in your post above. She too is often wonderful. As is William Trevor (both oldsters who didn't get MFAs).
We're "tough customers"? What about all those editors who reject you (and me)?

gimme said...

" I don't think we can say ALL minority writers are just trying to cash in on their heritage "

Um, ALL writers are trying to cash in on whatever heritage they can scrounge up. Duh.

Reading this inane argument about who is more "ethnic" gives me flashbacks. It's like we're suddenly back on an American university campus during the whole early 90s "identity politics"/PC plague.