Friday, May 9, 2008

Another Rejection Letter and The Highly Recommended Prostitute and Sex In The Library

Rejection letters are foreplay. That's what my ex used to say. "David, why so rough? That unbuttons, David! David, that's my shoulder...Oh, which one was it? Was it Fiddlehead? Was it Fiddlehead, David?"

Yesterday's "Fuck you, but no thanks" was a little tough to take. About three years ago I'd sent in a short story to The New Yorker. I did it as a joke; I never expected them to print something called "What'll Happen to Philip Roth's Stuff When He Dies?" I thought for sure I'd have to change the title.

But it was rejected. Outright.

Why this one hurt more than others is difficult to say. It could've been because, with the end of the academic year, life's kind of slowed down. It could've been because my dad's new book is looking like a Canadian best-seller: 5,000 copies sold and two CBC appearances. It doesn't get much bigger than that.

People might be wondering why, if I'm the son of a writer, can't I pull a string, tug on my father's balls, and get Anne McDermid to shop me around. That's usually how it works, right? Otherwise who would've heard of Menachem Philip Grove?

But dad says NO! Nepotism's taboo in our house. "You sink or swim on your own," he told me.

"What the hell am I?" I asked, "a witch?" I liked the sink or swim bullshit, so I kept going. "With enough rocks in your pockets even you'd stay on the bottom."

"What are you saying, David?"

"I'm saying I'm going to live a long and healthy life. And thank god I've got a waterproof watch."

Anyway, that's all tired family bickering. That's all we do: fight. We'd just been trading insults Thursday afternoon, which was why I was so down when the rejection slip slithered into my mailbox.

"Why spend the rest of the day writing?" I thought. "No publisher'd ever handle a Jew from Toronto--I've got to move to Penticton."

So I called a hooker.

There's a new "ebrothel" running on my campus, and it's been getting great reviews. They recruit men and women from the undergraduate ranks--and I've even heard of professors getting involved. You call the service, tell them your age, weight, height, favourite book, and your GPA, and they send you a man or woman likely to satisfy you intellectually and physically.

At first I felt bad calling, but the woman they sent was so grateful. "I've never met anyone who knew so much about Barbara Godard's gynocriticism," she told me. "Gee, tell me more about Jane Rule!"

The best part is no money actually changes hands; you just make a direct deposit against their tuition.

The girl they sent last night had actually been in one of my undergraduate classes. Her name was Vanessa, and she'd presented on Middleton's Women Beware Women. I thought it was a little long, but still made some lucid points.

"David, right?" she said when I turned the stack in the library. (That's where you meet--among the books.) "Wow! I don't mean to pry, but have you graded my exam yet?"

"No," I said, lying. Once I'd...and she'd had sharp teeth...and, well, let's forget about that for a minute.

"Oh...Oh well. I think I did great."

"I'm sure you did."

"No! Oh, I didn't mean that," she said, slipping her gum into a pocket Kleenex. "Please, on my merits only. So, where do you want to go? You know, to..."

"I think by the Atwoods would be good."

"Ha! That's what all men say."

I'm usually not so conventional. "OK. Fuck it. Daphne Marlatt. They've got eight copies of Ana Historic in soft cover. That shouldn't hurt too much, should it?"

"I don't know. How long is it?"

"Not very. A hundred pages or so."

"Good. Last week it was An American Tragedy, and I couldn't sit down 'til Tuesday."

"Well, then why don't we try Avison. Her chapbooks are all paper-bound."

"Wow!" she said, again. "You're kinky." We started walking through the stacks. "Let me ask you something, David," she put her hand on my forearm. "Why did you have to use three essay questions? Last year it was two plus definitions."

"It was the course director's choice," I said. "There was nothing I could do."


"No, I'm serious."

We walked over a sleeping student. Either sleeping or dead. "Here's a good place."

We stopped beside an empty carrel. I took out my wallet. "OK," she said. "Do you want the abridged version or the unexpurgated?"

"Unexpurgated. Absolutely unexpurgated."

"The Lampman or Bissett?"

"Bissett. Of course, Bissett."

"Form or content?"


"Hard cover or sof--"


"Do you want to flip the pages, or should I?"

"You probably should."

"In two volumes or one?"

"Let's try one, then two."

"I knew it!" she said, smiling. "Academics are all the same."

Now I feel like shit. Rejection ,whether it's coming from a colleague, friend, or publishing house, is actually sweet. There's something about being liked "as a friend" that feels better than smacking a beautiful woman's bare ass with Routledge's edition of Winter Sun. It doesn't always feel good to play in a fixed game--or a library. And paying for sex while leaning against a collector shelf does nothing for the ego. Especially when the girl you're with thinks rug burn is the next best thing to an orgasm.

...At least she liked my long poem.

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