by epi

it’s been a while since i’ve shared anything here… but, here. ‘Her First Novel’ by James Tate. I love this poem. I think I love the novelist. I like the way her title doesn’t work, and she’s almost ashamed of the horror she wrote, but she couldn’t stop. She fell in love with her character (not in a way reminiscent of an otaku, but more, she created him, and didn’t have the heart to destroy him.  So she didn’t, and created something else [a title] to mask her weakness). I’m not sure why that moved me enough to write it here and tell you what I thought about it, but it did. The simplicity & truth.

Her First Novel

by James Tate

When Connie finished her novel she came
over to my place to celebrate. I mixed up a
shaker full of Manhattans and we sat out on the
porch. “Here’s to… What’s the title?” I
asked. “Well, that’s a problem. The title’s
kind of awful. It’s called THE KING OF SLOPS.”
“Gosh,” I said, “that’s unfortunate. I think
you can probably do better than that.” We took
a drink and reflected. “It’s about a hospital
orderly.” “Ouch,” I said. “It doesn’t sound
very promising, does it?” “Is there a love
angle?” I asked hopefully. “No,” she replied,
“everybody hates him. He’s a creep.” “Then
Why…?” “I don’t know. I got started and
I couldn’t stop. I wanted to kill him off,
but I just couldn’t. He’s the loneliest guy
in the world.” “It’s beginning to sound pretty
good to me,” I said. “How’s it end? Upbeat,
I hope?” “That’s another problem I’m afraid.
He tries to marry a corpse, and when the priest
finds out he throws him out the twelfth-story
window.” Tears were streaming down Connie’s
face. I was desperate to find anything com-
forting to say. “Well,” I said, “you could
call it THE GOOD PRIEST.” Connie smiles, and
the wake continued long into the night.

“Her First Novel” by James Tate, from Memoir of the Hawk. © The Ecco Press, 2001. (buy now)