Jasper Foie-Gras is writing a memoir and he’s very insecure about it. He emailed his editor James a portion of chapter 1, but received an “out of office” reply. Jasper believed getting feedback was indeed an emergency, so he contacted April Higgins, a junior editor at the same publishing house. You can read previous correspondence as well as bits of the memoir here and here.
Subject: Your Manuscript
It’s a bit out of the ordinary for more than one editor to provide feedback on a manuscript, but since you feel it is an emergency situation and cannot continue without constructive criticism, I will oblige. I have CCed James, so he’s aware of our correspondence. I expect him to return to the office on Wednesday.
I’ve read the brief prologue, introduction and beginning of chapter one. Here are the things I like.
“I’m Jasper Foie-Gras. I have no clue what my real last name is, my parents forgot it a long time ago. So, for now I’m using the favorite food of the only hooker who ever loved me. ”
That had me gasping for air at my desk, and I must say all the other editors found it to be extraordinary phrasing. Also of note is,
“It all started when Florencio convinced everyone he could make booze from eggs. ”
All of us in the office found that to be an infinitely intriguing lead-in. I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of my favorite lines with my cohorts.
So, while I think the phrasing and imagery is stellar at times, I don’t believe you have a story to tell. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that you as a person probably have a story to tell, or else James wouldn’t have given you an advance to write this memoir. However, as a reader, it’s entirely unclear where anything is going.
From what I’ve read, I only know the following things about you.
- You were born into something called The Tribe.
- As a baby, you slept on a dead dog (btw, I would love to see more details about the dog: color, texture, etc).
- Your mother didn’t want you.
- You’re miserable and you hate yourself.
Those are not qualities in a personal story that would encourage a person to keep reading. Why would I want to read a book about someone who’s totally miserable and tainted by early brushes with death? I believe you must plant the seed in the reader’s head that you will overcome something and prevail in a heroic way. I don’t believe anyone can follow, no matter how poetic at times, the story of a jaded man who hates life. I’m sure you did some wonderful things as a child and young man. Give us a hint, because as it stands now, you’re not likable and no one finishes a novel with an unlikable protagonist.
Here’s my suggestion, and take it with a grain of salt. I think you should start over. In the prologue, I would suggest providing a short history of The Tribe, so by the time we get to the introduction, the reader understands a little about your circumstances. Then in the introduction you can talk about how you you were born and how you later chose your name. I would leave out anything about your current living situation. This is a memoir, and memoirs deal only in the past.
About your past. I researched “The Tribe,” and can’t find any record of their existance at all. Also, I’m fairly certain groups of women don’t all lactate at the same time just because one of them gave birth. I think maybe someone was pulling your leg? Perhaps it’s worth doing a little soul searching and considering the possibility.
The most important thing to remember is that since James Frey’s debacle with A Million Little Pieces, everyone is very sensitive about accuracy in memoirs. I would like to just give you a gentle nudge and a wink when I say, “Remember to always tell the truth.”
Hope this helps, and I’d be more than happy to read the next draft if you and James find if helpful.
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript
HOLY SHIT APRIL, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?
You may have just ruined my relationship with the author of what could very possibly be the next Confederacy of Dunces. Where on earth do you find the balls to critique my client’s work? You didn’t even understand what you were reading. This is a satire of satire. Do you have any idea how meta that is? Are you aware of how desperate the 25-35 year old demographic is for anything meta?
I don’t know what to do, April. I’m on vacation in Mexico with my family and I’m typing this to you at a goddam internet cafe. Do you think this is what I wanted to be doing? You have no idea how fragile Jasper is. Any negative feedback will likely send him back undergroud. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never hear from him again.
Nice work, you’ve ruined your first masterpiece. Jasper was on the verge of creating a new genre, and you’ve likely robbed literary society of the opportunity to experience it. Now if you’d stand out of my way, I’ll respond to Jasper. I’m sending it to you too, so he feels like I’m dealing with the situation you’ve created.
Subject: Re: Your Manuscript
Jasper! My MAN!
Hola from Mexico. So great to hear from you. Forget what April said. She’s a moron. Women! Am I right? Also, I hope you’ve survived her multiple use of the word manuscript. I assure you she was not aware of your brain’s allergy to that term! Let me tell you a little about April. She’s VERY young and just out of college and full of attitude and almost completely devoid of value.
Let me be perfectly clear about something here. I’m deeply sorry that you were exposed to the opinions of an undereducated, inexperienced editor who doesn’t think she’s being useful unless she’s being negative. I think what you’ve written so far is EXCEPTIONAL and I cannot wait to read more. Please don’t let Ms. Higgins’ misguided comments lead you astray from the ridiculously wonderful work you’re doing.
I believe in you, Jasper.
Subject: FWD: Re: Your Manuscript
You better hope that worked. If not, you’re fired.