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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rejection Withering on The Orchid Vine

Where to start with this misguided Orchid: A Literary Review rejection? I'll skip over the pretentious journal title and go straight to the hugely long and rather ridiculous quotation by Charles Baxter, which the editors apparently include as an excerpt on the top of each rejection. The quotation is from Baxter's Letters to A Fiction Writer (Norton, 1999). In it, Baxter explores the writer's "burden of sorts," saying: "You are lugging something around that seems to be part of your being, or, as we would say now, is "hard wired" into you, so much so that you have become its container, but the only way to express it—almost literally, to bring it out—is to write it. What "it" is, in this case, is a piling up of selves, of beings, and of stories that are being experienced from the inside." Are these editors kidding? I'm supposed to feel inspired by this? Also, am I a luggage carrier, a computer or a container? I can't figure it out. (BTW, "A piling up of selves?" Give me a break.)

But hold on a sec, because I'm only half way through this baby: "What is it like to be you, to be me? You can't answer that question by answering it discursively. You can only answer it by telling a story. That's not therapy. You're not sick. You're just a certain kind of human being." (Good to know that I'm not sick. I actually thought I was mentally ill all these years instead of just being a rejected writer.)

But wait; there's more: "It's exactly like the necessity the musician has in humming a tune or playing a piano, or the necessity an artist has in doodling and sketching and drawing and painting. It's almost involuntary. Something needs to get out: Not expressed but extruded." (Help! Please!)

I know you're exhausted, but luckily we have one more thought to add to this melange of mixed metaphors: "As the composer Camille Saint-Saens remarked, 'I write music the way an apple tree produces apples.'" (No offense, but I write novels the way five elephants giving birth consecutively over ten years produce other elephants, or Café Lattes for that matter, so don't give me this "involuntary urge" business or "natural fruit on the tree" stuff.)

The rejection itself, once you finally get to it, offers a cheery little list of the kind of stats you might find on this blog: number of rejections, misguided words of editors, etc. (Please click the image above to read the rejection.) The editors of Orchid, Keith Hood and Amy Sumerton, offer this: "We're writers, too, and understand the disappointment of rejection. Please keep in mind that we're all in good company. The average story is rejected 25 or more times before being accepted....Please keep in mind the words from Charles Baxter quoted above. Take care and keep writing." I think if they ditched the incomprehensible quotation, the rejection would actually be okay. Don't you?


Anonymous said...

What they really want is for you to Quit Writing Fooorrreeevvveeerrrr. This rejection could honestly do that for me.

Reading Charles Baxter is like drinking a tall glass of cherry-flavored corn syrup. He used to be all right, I don't know what happened to him. Tenure?

Anonymous said...

Dear god. I found I couldn't bear to read all of Baxter's missive, even when chopped into digestible chunks with nice commentary. Dear god.

Chonny Sanchez said...

It sounds to me like this editor is too absorbed and in love with his or her own writing to even bother with anyone elses soul baring. Probably been working on that rejection letter for months and you were the first submission. Consider yourself lucky to evade dealing with this person on a personal level...:)