Saturday, July 15, 2006

As we slowly continue the move in process in this new place I came across a copy of a wonderful but very short-lived (never went past the pilot phase) magazine called March edited by Adam Van Loon, which was kind enough to run some of The Exquisite. This was 4 years ago so it was pretty early stuff and represented a kind of time capsule on the piece. It made me think of just how radically, at times, and subtly, at others, the process of bringing something toward publication can change a text. This is not just a function of an editor's green pen, although that can be a big part of it. It is also a function of the way the mind shifts around a work as it starts to enter the reifying cauldron of publication. I thought it might be interesting to paste in the opening paragraph of The Exquisite as it was for most of its life as a manuscript and then what it became over the course of this past year.

Here is how it opened (and indeed more or less the first stuff I wrote on the book):

New York is no place to die. I have this recurring dream that Death, dressed as a hot dog vendor, or, better, as a cab driver eating a hot dog, rips me out of my shoes as I'm walking up Avenue B. People do die here, of course -- by the thousands, by the millions even, they are falling over onto concrete, into gutters, out of windows, off of fire escapes, down brutal flights of stairs; and, as they lie there breathing their last, there is the sound of a train screaming down the tracks towards them, or of a power saw slicing into steel, or of a mother screaming at her kids. Or smaller sounds, muffled. You are sitting collapsed in the glow of a low wattage light bulb in the center of a dark room in the middle of the night, while in the kitchen the faucet is dripping onto unwashed dishes; in the apartment below you the endless conversation, several voices, continues, the one you could never quite understand; you sit collapsed in the dim light, so dim that it seems a logical and even a beautiful part of your dying, and someone is walking back and forth over loose floorboards, the same someone as always, somewhere above your head. Well, fuck you, I don't want it; but you will have it, Henry, you must have it, my dear friend Mr. Kindt once told me, my dear friend who is now dead.

And here is what it has become (with some of the lost material resurfacing later in the first chapter):

Uh, uh, no way, I don't want it. But you will have it, Henry, you must have it, my dear friend Mr. Kindt once told me. My dear friend who is now dead.

I still like the original approach, as prose, as gateway to something, but it just didn't make sense for what followed. Too much happens too fast and it sort of overpowered the surround.

I'll see if I can dig up an early opening for The Impossibly too. There the change was subtler, but just as important.


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