The Treachery of Bookstores

In recent years bookstores have become increasingly vexing and anxious spaces for me. What used to be places of peace are now fraught with urgency; not about which books to read, which should be the only anxiety one has in a bookstore, but rather my continual failure to finish any one of my fucking three novel manuscripts.

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It is the nature of any relationship that beginnings are much easier than endings. You know how it is at the beginning. You just can’t get enough of each other. You hum with anticipation when the time approaches that you see each other. It’s the sweet rush of infatuation, replete with possibility and hope; too perfect to fail. Or perhaps, the newness of it, the unknowing that accompanies every encounter keeps the imperfections in the soft kind glow of “quirky.” So many tiny flaws that you seem to adore, thinking to yourself, how could something that fills me with such a sense of purpose, that energizes me in such an undeniable way—how could such a thing ever come to be anything besides a manifestation of my love and care? 

And then the inevitable happens. The storied honeymoon begins to wind down. The cold winds sweep across the once perfect golden beach of possibility, and the waves, that were so recently caressing and gentle, rise up in whipped peaks that look downright menacing. Your teeth begin to grind together as you contemplate your beloved. Your temples pulse with anxiety as you stare at it sullenly, hating its very existence, resenting it for being so goddamn essential to you. What made it so important? Who let it just swoop in and take over your life like that? Was it you? How could you be so blindingly stupid to let such a succubus feed on your once blithe, carefree existence?

Am I right, ladies? 

My particular succubus is my goddamn novel. We’ve been together a bit over two years now, and let’s just say, the shine has certainly worn off. We’ve undergone some counseling at the hands of trusted friends who know us both pretty well. We had a brief resurgence of the honeymoon period for a couple of months there, but this past weekend things got ugly. 

Some not-nice things were said—and they can’t be unsaid. I won’t lie: there was crying involved. Public crying. Because my novel seemed to think it best to reveal to me the depth of its dysfunction in public, at our favorite café, where we’d spent so many productive, happy hours. To say the least, being blindsided with a cul de sac of a story arc and flaccid climactic conflict whilst sipping café au lait was certainly not how I intended to spend my Saturday. 

Okay, okay, let’s be fair. I did make the novel. It was I who constructed the plot lines and the characters. It was I who noodled perhaps insufficiently over whether the actions of the characters were truly driving the plot all the way through—to say nothing of how much or how little I considered their actions to be true to them, who they are. I’m willing to take my share of responsibility in that. But what I am ever so pissed about is that fact that it took my novel so long to tell me it was broken. I mean, would it have been all that hard to just make it known, straight up, that there were some serious fucking problems here? Apparently so, because it just went blithely about its business, la di da, like this particular draft was actually going so, so much more smoothly than the last one. Yeah, not so much. I mean, seriously. If you knew your car’s lug nuts were loose, would you still drive it? No!

I’m getting worked up again. 

And you know the worst thing? We have a vacation planned. My novel and I were going to spend three weeks together in New York in August. We were going to soak up the city (because my novel happens in New York City, and I thought it would be best informed in a firsthand way) and spend long whiling hours in Manhattan cafes working together. We were going to walk the hot summer streets at night and begin to observe and record the nuances that really bring a story setting to life. But now? I just don’t know. The trip is still happening, that’s for sure. And I’m not above taking a totally new writing project with me to NYC. You hear that, novel? That’s right. There’s at least a half-dozen other ideas for books and stories that can take your place. You’re not the only one. 

But who am I kidding? I’m hopelessly monogamous. The next cannot start in earnest until this one is finished. So all I can do is hope that a little breathing room will be good for us. That we’ll be able to get together in a few weeks, have a tentative cup of coffee and see where things go. Take a little of the pressure off, you know? 

Anyway. Thanks for listening. It was good to get that off my chest.