Tuesday, April 26, 2005

BOOK OF LOVE

The agent’s journey involves a kind of love-hate relationship with the written word. With much of our time devoted to evaluating work that is often *not* all that great--as well as living with the heavy mental burden of an unending reading surplus—books tend to lose their once-held magical appeal. Instead, reading becomes an onerous experience much akin to schoolwork or exam studies or some other duty-bogged mental task. I recently read my friend Jennifer Jackson’s remarks on this matter at http://www.romancingtheblog.com/, and felt encouraged to hear another agent voice an experience so similar to my own.

As if it weren’t bad enough to fall out of love with books, there is a fate equally horrifying (perhaps I overstate the case? I’ll let you decide.) Imagine constantly attending parties or social functions where you’re expected to be the singularly most well-read individual in the room—only to consistently disappoint, almost like a magician incapable of the parlor tricks of his trade.

“You haven’t read THAT?” a friend will cry. “But you’re an AGENT!” (“That” book typically equals something like THE DAVINCI CODE or THE LOVELY BONES or any other buzz book that Every Other Person on the Planet Seems to be Reading.)

You shift your eyes, looking for the flashing exit sign, and admit, “Uh, no, I haven’t actually had a chance to read MAMMOTH BESTSELLER OF THE YEAR, no.”

“But, but,” the friend stammers, unable to compute this strange illogical slip in the data, until finally they arrive at, “Wow. I’m so surprised.” Disappointed. Disillusioned. Unimpressed. I have just been struck down to mere-mortal proportions among my bookish set of friends.

“Uh, but I did read five books last week!” I might offer helpfully.

Friend turns back, ready for deep talk. “Really? Anything I might like?”

“Well,” I have to admit, “nothing that’s published” (Translation: nothing I can really even discuss right now.)

And so it goes. The agent’s life is a constant state of readerly doom—condemning us to either mediocre (or bad!) books, or to devouring fabulous books that no one else besides the author has yet read! Talk about isolation. Part of readership’s thrill is the act of communion—one reason why agenting is also such an ecstatic pleasure on occasion. To discover a first time author or an unpublished book, then find another living individual—the editor—who appreciates it with equal measure is beyond sublime.

So you muck along, wondering what happened to your simple pleasure as a reader, those days when you nestled on the sofa and nobody could talk to you until you reached a story’s end. But then after a time something transcendental eventually occurs in your journey as “mere reader.” One day, when you almost think all your old bookish passions have been sapped out of you completely, something causes you to pick up a magic book, one that so inspires you, so ignites you, that your old passion is rekindled.

And when the love returns, it seems to return with greater burn. For me, the past year has been a year of falling in love with books all over again. I’m not sure I can point to *the* single novel that led me back into the fold; it was a series of wonderful books: THE TRUE AND OUTSTANDING ADVENTURES OF THE HUNT SISTERS, THE SECOND ASSISTANT, ANGEL FALLS, and then, the life-changing, mystical and amazing… THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE. Let me tell you, if you’ve not read this last one, you should *rush* to beg, borrow or buy it. I read and re-read it. I wandered about my house in a Marsha Brady-esque fugue state, placing milk in the pantry, coffee in front of my three year old… well, not that bad (thank goodness!) But I did quite literally move about with half my mind perpetually engaged in the world Audrey Niffenegger had created. Even now, months after finishing the second reading I can re-engage with her characters, question their choices, wonder about their “endings.” That is the mark of a mesmerizing book. Read it. Trust me.

And so I believe I can thank Audrey N for my current euphoric reading state. She then led me to Carol Berg, a marvelous fantasy writer whose every book I’ve now devoured—again, you MUST try her TRANSFORMATION. From there, your Carol Berg journey will have begun, and like me, you’ll be destined to keep on going!

All of this leads me to the best news of all. I have discovered that with my reignited pleasure in reading, another pleasure has also returned: excitement about reading submissions. And so it has come full circle. I’m happy agent girl, awaiting Amazon shipments with breathless anticipation, and opening each submission with that dewy promise of *possibility*. If only it could always stay this way…
Deidre

7 comments:

Trace said...

Wow. It is SO incredibly cool to hear the agent's point of view. Thanks so much for that. Very enlightening.

Anonymous said...

I ADORE Carol Berg. TRANSFORMATION is one of my two favorites, with SONG OF THE BEAST being the other. LOVED that book.

Another really great fantasy author I've stumbled on is Julliet Marillier's Sevenwater's Trilogy, which begins with Daughter of the Forest.

Robin - off to find Time Traveler's Wife

Anonymous said...

Dear Happy Agent Girl,

I'm going to Amazon to buy Audrey's book RIGHT NOW--because I've been putting it off for, oh, about a year. I don't know why. Anyway, your review sold me. Then I'm going to query you. (Unless I'm in a fuguish state of mind. Then, I may end up sending you my grocery list, for which I'll now pre-apologize profusely. ;) Thanks for a fun blog, and for sharing your book news and advice on writing, agents and publishing.
Marina

Lynn said...

I'm glad you found your way full circle. I know exactly what you're talking about, although I haven't experienced it for myself. It's something that seems to most people who take something they love--hobby, entertainment--and make it their career. Once it becomes a job, it's not as entertaining. My husband's a sound engineer, and although he still loves music, there are times he'd rather listen to talk radio.

And you've convinced me. I'll be picking up THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE first chance I get. So much for my vow not to buy any more books until I make a dent in my TBR pile. *g*

Deidre Knight said...

I love all your comments! It makes this so much more fun to hear from you guys, and what my mosts are sparking for you! Thanks for sharing. And ordering TIME TRAVELERS WIFE is an *excellent* idea. Grin.

Anne said...

De! You're right, I did find this interesting. Oddly enough...even though I'm not in your shoes, it's been the same for me lately. I didn't read much at all for a long, long time, and lately I've been in a "euphoric state of reading" as well - going through a book anywhere from every 3-10 days (depending on the length).

The Time Traveler's Wife *really* effected me as well. Basically took over my brain for a few weeks, actually. lol.

And it was interesting reading the list of what you've been reading, because I just picked up the Hunt Sisters this weekend...it's next on my list. And when I got it I was deciding between that and the Second Assistant.

My recommendation to you is Little Earthquakes, Jennifer Weiner's 3rd book. I read it very quickly over 3 days last week and devoured it. And I think there's some stuff in there that you would particularly relate to as a reader....

Okay...closing my mouth (fingers?) now!

Anne ;)

Ela said...

I had this happiness, that Deidre recommended me the THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE a couple days ago. I trusted her, obviously. :)I bought book, and I loved it. This is very difficult to say in several words how this story made me happy. And like I said you, sweetie, it will stay in my heart for ever.
I will wait with impatience on release TRANSFORMATION Carol Berg in my country (this will be in 2005).