Per­fec­tion Comes From Re­vi­sion

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - COVER STORY -

In writ­ing as in life, fail­ure is the thread that you can de­pend on to tie it all to­gether

the pub­lisher. Since then – back at Amherst – I had been at work on my first com­plete novel, The Or­a­cle at Watts. I fin­ished it in that sum­mer be­tween col­lege and life. Then I was not sure what to do, so I sent it to Sonny’s as­sis­tant, who was a friend. When she’d read it, she took me for a walk. We stood near the bleach­ers in Cen­tral

Park. It was late af­ter­noon. Long Septem­ber light striped the flanks of build­ings. She told me I had tal­ent, real tal­ent. She read sev­eral books a week; some by pub­lished writ­ers; she knew: I was the real thing. I didn’t care. I just wanted her to say one thing, then she did: ‘I want to give it to Sonny.’

And since then I had been wait­ing. Sum­mer changed to fall to win­ter. I was half-crazy with an­tic­i­pa­tion. I knew he had read it; she told me; he had read it that first week­end in Oc­to­ber. Why the fuck was he tak­ing so long to be in touch?

My ex­cite­ment had cur­dled into some­thing cor­ro­sive when at last his email ar­rived.

We went some­where where he could smoke. I had a whisky; he had a glass of red wine. He said I had a gift. I must keep writ­ing, whether for pub­li­ca­tion or not. The book was not for him; it had an el­e­ment of melo­drama, which was not to his taste. He handed me a piece of pa­per. A re­port on the book from an im­par­tial reader. My first re­view, as such; and it was bad. But I must keep writ­ing; I had a gift. What I needed, he said, was an agent. He had two in mind. I should call him next week, and he would put me in touch. That was some­thing!

I tried him Tues­day, then Wed­nes­day, then Thurs­day; a dif­fer­ent older as­sis­tant an­swered; I left a mes­sage each time.

On Fri­day I re­alised he would never call me back.

It was a kick in the teeth; but later, much later, it felt good. Fail­ure is the one thread you can de­pend on to tie to­gether a writ­ing life. And the fail­ures we suf­fer at the hands of oth­ers are noth­ing com­pared to those we ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­day, in com­plete soli­tude, at our desks. But there is no re­vi­sion with­out fail­ure, and there is no writ­ing with­out re­vi­sion.

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