This is part of a collection A Gaucho Throws the I Ching, click here
"As 'Loquaicious' spherical projectile ascended to its zenith, a quiescent penumbra embraced the ebullient assembly. For the polis of oft suffering multitudes of Memphis, Tennessee, these brief milliseconds of time were the difference between redemption, validation of their people or the humbling shame of another season as an also ran. With a reverberating bing the sphere caromed the rim before, with a satisfying swish it descended through the polystyrene net.”
Skrrrt....Ding, the Underwood 1925 model chimed. What a refreshing sound to break the silence. With an exhilarating Shhhfffft, Stephen retrieved the Southworth 100% 32 lb. cotton paper, lovingly admired it, and delicately collated it with the others of his latest chapter, "Bringing Grace back to Graceland". Stephen organized the chapter on the right-hand side of his oak desk, one he and Deirdre found while antiquing in Franklinton.
Everything was in its right place. Stephen’s friends and family would roll their eyes at Stephen’s office, Estragon and Hermione had to share a bedroom to make room for it. Both Stephen and Deirdre’s parents were hippies, so they didn’t mind the kids sharing a room, but they did laugh at his old-fashioned Underwood. A writer of any success needs to write at least 2000 words a day. Stephen had no doubt written double this amount, the overwhelming majority of that was editing for the Tennessean, the Nashville newspaper serving 39 counties in central Tennessee. Between filling in crucial transition paragraphs in the articles sent to him, and sending editorial feedback to his writers, Stephen was writing thousands of words, to the extent that he felt like an intellectual garbageman. Stephen’s laptop became a means of oppression. He considered himself a mastery of the English language, he scored a 680 on the verbal GRE, in the top 2 percentile worldwide, only to become a slave of other, lesser peoples’ words. He felt like Gulliver, tied down by the words of lesser Lilliputians.
With the Underwood, Stephen was free to impose his mindset, his observations to shape the discourse of millions. The reassuring clack of the Underwood solicited a dolorous melody to Stephen’s ears. Retyping it had been worth it, but now he simply scans the typewritten pages directly to searchable pdfs. The text recognition could also convert the glorious underwood font to a mundane arial for the editor. Once the layout was complete Stephen insisted on reconverting the font back to Underwood for the final manuscript. The ornate serif hearkens back to a time when reading was the primary form of leisure.
The door creaked open. It was Deirdre with a Hopnado, she even placed a slice of lime from the backyard, just like he preferred.
Stephen checked the clock, it was 10:30.
"You always know when to pop in, Deej." said Stephen.
"That sounded like an especially triumphant Ding." Deirdre replied. "How's the progress?"
"Well, it was grueling, but I have one more chapter down."
"I'm so proud of you babe," Deirdre said as she handed over the Hopnado. The Hopnado was an acquired taste, and Stephen acquired it while working on a piece for Details magazine for the Sierra Nevada Brewery. The flavor profile had one of the highest IBUs available on the market, with the final step of the brew being a dry hopped addition, soaking the hops an additional 72 hours following an already long steeping process. These hops had a citrus profile with a hint of cherry and an oaky aftertaste. The write up was well received at Details and it opened many doors to product-oriented travel pieces. Stephen had come a long way from the Pabst Blue Ribbons he drank as a skinny teenager in Aberdeen, though he did have a little stash to remind him of where he came from, and to hand out to guests.
After five years of book reviews and essays on new forms of social media, Stephen had developed enough of a portfolio to begin making pitches, his most ambitious being to Simon and Shoester. He had a sprawling, genre bending tale of hyperreality and science fiction following the day in the life of a student at the University of Chicago named Cephus, an allusion to Sisyphus. It would be both an homage to and a spiritual update of Ulysses. Stephen had written a hundred pages already and had plot diagrams and pages of footnotes and other sections drafted. Stephen also submitted an exhaustive portfolio of his previous work, including a mockup of a biography of Kobe Bryant he wrote while in high school. Stephen had drawn Kobe Bryant by hand with fans in the background and over-the-top superlatives on Kobe’s prowess. Stephen was a fan boy, he wasn’t ashamed to admit it, but he was taken aback when the editor, Fiona Nussbaum, approached him about a project for Loquacious Jones and his remarkable year taking the Memphis Grizzlies deep into the 2020 playoffs. Loquacious put Memphis’ long-suffering team on the map for the first time since Pau Gasol left. Stephen’s proposal for a novel was rejected, or rather, shelved, but he walked away with an offer to write a nonfiction sports book on Loquacious and the Memphis Grizzlies amazing 2020 season entitled “The Miraculous Run of the Graceland Grizzlies.” As part of the offer, he received a $20,000 advance, a nice supplement to his editing salary.
“How was the DEI meeting Deej?” asked Stephen.
“As good as a meeting can go I guess. You know how it is, with great power comes great responsibility.”
“I’m proud of you Deej.” Stephen said with sincerity. It was true, Deirdre was his everything, she already made tenure in the humanities department where she taught criminal justice and was given more responsibility on the diversity, equity, and inclusiveness board. For many years while Stephen was freelancing, it was Deirdre’s job that paid the life insurance. But for all her strengths, Deirdre knew she could rely on Stephen in times of trouble. Stephen often remembered when Justice Kavanaugh, that man, was nominated to the Supreme Court, how Deirdre wept, her dishwater blonde hair sopping up her slobbery tears.
“How can Hermione face the future like this? What if she needs an abortion?”
“It’s ok Deej, she’ll always have plan B.” Stephen regretted that comment as soon as he said it but looking back, they did laugh. They came a long way from Aberdeen.
As Stephen set his alarm on his phone, he received one last notification.
“Of course, the only thing that would keep me from sleeping,” said Stephen.
“Is something wrong with your parents?” asked Deirdre.
“It’s Fiona, she has revisions ready.” Fiona Nussbaum, the editor at S&S in charge of handling. Stephen got up from his bed, went to the living room and opened his laptop. As he logged in he mentally prepared himself for the cold sterile sans serif arial font that awaited him. Stephen on his gmail account and opened Fiona’s email, which read:
“Stephen, you’re not going to want to hear this, but while your effort in composing The Graceland Grizzlies has been ambitious, much this content falls well outside the scope of the expectations of Simon and Shoester. This deliverable is due on June of 2023 and while there are no grammatical errors to be found- the syntax is indeed excellent- your document is, at 523 pages long and you still haven’t reached halfway through the miracle season of 2020. After giving the first two hundred pages a thorough read and skimming the rest, I had to stop. It was simply too much. Below are my points of feedback, which will need to be fully incorporated, and you may have to start over to provide a marketable product.
1. The purpose of the Graceland Grizzlies is to give the casual Memphis reader reason to be proud of his/her/their city, and to provide business travelers some convenient and uplifting about a mid-sized market in the Bible belt. Seeing a thousand-page book is intimidating to this audience.
2. The shifting perspective of the first-person narrative is disorienting and distracting to the audience and undermines the story. For example, the B plot of Laquisha Thomason’s eminent domain battle with the Memphis housing authority over the fair market value of her south forum home is, on its own, a very provocative piece. But the morality tale and the intersection of local city politics of bond issuances is only tangentially related to the main story of the Grizzlies and does nothing to further the story arc. The less than 1% of your audience that read “As I lay dying” will likely find this approach gaudy, the rest will not understand it completely. Make Loquacious stand front and center in this story.
3. Not entirely unrelated, it is not necessary to provide so thorough a genealogy of Loquacious Jones ancestry. Again, the anecdote of the slave ship and the documentation of the ownership and finance of such ships and the travails of Jones ancestors in Tuskegee and their travels to Detroit and the West Coast is compelling but outside the scope of the genre. Here at S&S we have a division dedicated to African American studies and we think that diverse voices need to speak on those topics, and talented and dedicated writers like yourself can use your talent to promote the triumphs of African American athletes. By devoting a chapter to reliving the horrible history of racism, your chapter in Graceland’s Grizzlies cannibalizes on this imprint and drowns out diverse viewpoints.
4. Even on those points when you do focus on Loquacious in-game performance, your tapestry of prose is so dense that it is impenetrable. Again, remember your audience. Instead of calling Loquacious fadeaway the “apotheosis” of jump shots, can’t you just call it the “greatest” jump shots. You are asking a busy professional to search up words like “apotheosis”, this makes the reader put down the book and putting down a book in this day and age is death for the narrative. Another example:
a. “Loquacious deftly caressed the ball before elegiacally dribbling between his lissome limbs, his ability to weave through defenders apodictic.”
Stephen, I want to acknowledge that we here at S&S are willing to give you a second chance at this, but you will have to go through this manuscript with a fine toothed comb, excise at least half of the text outright, and rewrite the entire manuscript from the ground up with special consideration to communication to an audience as a peer instead of lecturing them on the esoterica of the English language. Tap into that spirit of your high school days. I know you can do it Stephen, get me halfway through the season in 200 pages.
Stephen’s face was scrunched up in anguish, each point another twist of the knife. Fiona was such a lightweight. Of course people haven’t read Faulkner, that’s the point, Stephen thought. In his introduction to the enigmatic Loquacious, Stephen wanted to emphasize Loquacious’ importance to the community by using this technique. Stephen knew this was the best way to introduce Loquacious as a mythical specimen that Memphians of all stripes can aspire to. Clearly, what Fiona does not understand is that these people need to be introduced. Further, how can the narrative have a fractal structure without shifting perspectives? And the fractal structure is central to the narrative arc that Stephen was building, with Loquacious as the lynchpin.
Deirdre, having gauged Stephen’s reaction by the uneasy and long silence, turned off her light for the night. After a long enough time with someone, you know when to give them the time and space they need to cope.
Stephen faced an inexorable dilemma, he could swallow his pride and bend to Fiona’s demands, which meant abandoning the last six months of work, or write a forceful rebuttal. Stephen walked over to Estragon and Hermione’s bedroom, he looked at Hermione’s little blonde curls as she lay sprawled on top of the blankets on the bottom bunk. The windows weren’t double paned and the chilly winter air seeped right through them. Stephen put the blanket back over Hermione. Stephen thought about how he was late on the last few payments on the Oxford English Dictionary he bought back in 2020. Then, he walked back into the kitchen, reached in the bottom drawer, picked up two Pabst Blue Ribbon’s, picked up his laptop, and walked to the office. Stephen then carefully, delicately, grabbed the 1925 Underwood, set it gently on the bookshelf, and opened up his laptop. While word was loading, Stephen put his PBR under his shirt, twisted it open, and guzzled half of it down in one drop. He selected Arial font, and wrote:
“From the opening tipoff Loquacious was ready to make an
emphatic strong statement. Derrick Jones got the tipoff and weaved a pass to Loquacious, who took it to the hole with a thunderous dunk. Everyone in the FedEx Arena got to their feet and cheered on Loquacious!”