Confessional: I’m Sappy and Sentimental
Some people like to call me “sappy and sentimental,” and I like to call those people “heartless bastards.” Like this one time I was in a fiction workshop, sitting around that long boardroom table, and this girl was reading aloud to the class about her parents loveless marriage, or maybe the first time she did crystal meth, or discovered she liked kissing other girls, honestly I kind of stopped paying attention (I have a problem with that—me head is always in the clouds . . .)
To be honest, the writing didn’t really seem that good, but then, she started crying, and I started seeing that the way she had read it was very touching. Then we went around the room for comments.
“There were too many clichés for me to get involved emotionally.”
“Can you flesh that out a bit? I can’t connect with your . . . I mean, your character’s pain.”
“I’m sorry . . . it just wasn’t very good, and I can’t explain to you why.”
And because I knew that the girl wasn’t sending it to The New Yorker, she was just writing it to find out something about herself, I said, “I was very moved by it.” Which made a few girls roll their eyes, acknowledging to each other, “here he goes again . . .” but I didn’t care. I saw that the girl’s head was down, she was looking into her lap, and when I started speaking again, saying, “I think it took courage to not just read it aloud to the class, but to write it in the first place,” her eyes moved to the window, which looked out over the Hudson River toward Jersey, my home. I said, “I’d love to read more of your work. I feel like I’m a part of it.”
I never saw the girl again though. People said she moved to Alaska.
The whole thing made me think about how the world is so soulless. If writers and artists, the people that are supposed to have empathy and all that crap, can’t just get over their egos and show some humanity for three seconds in a stupid fiction workshop (which really doesn’t matter for anything at all in your life, except, every now and again, it’ll get you laid) then what hope do we have?
I’m sorry for going on and on about this. I’m just a little upset.
I heard back from Wendy Weinberg. This is what she said:
Dear Mr. Plick,
First of all I would like to note the painfully obvious: Jonathan Bobbins is not my client. Had you looked at my website, and my client list, you would’ve known that.
On another note, the proposed questions you sent to me in lieu of Bobbins:
“Do you find any similarities between Lázló Lánká, the protagonist of Everything is Over, with the Buddha?”
“What’s your favorite Bruce Springsteen song?”
are far too sappy and sentimental for someone like Bobbins, who is all about ideas. If you do get a hold of Bobbins heed my advice and never ask him interrogatories laced with saccharine.
Weinberg Literary Group
Well excuse me, Wendy frickin’ Weinberg—a simple “He’s not my client” would’ve been enough! And what has she accomplished besides going to Cornell and sucking up to people for years at readings and book launches until she had enough connections to spend the rest of her life sticking mediocre fiction and wannabe political criticism down our throats! You know something, I’m better off without someone like her. I need to stick to what I know.
Which is why I decided to walk through my neighborhood hanging fliers (on signs, not trees) advertising a Lev Vassolinky Book Club.
“New Park Slope Book Club! First Book: Lev Vassolinky’s The Delusional. Free babysitting and Kosher Vegan Cupcakes.”
And my girlfriend can help me.
But still, what if I am too “sappy and sentimental,” like Wendy said? What if I’m too sensitive for the gritty world of publishing? Maybe that’s why I’m dating a French girl and hightailing it to Paris (if I’m going to have kids named Jacques and Cousteau I need to parle français!). Maybe that’s the only place in this world with some heart and dignity.