I’ve not gotten much pleasure from seeing things I’ve written, whether for love or money, published. I know that I’m supposed to feel gratified and excited, so I’ve been known to pretend, both to myself and for any collaborators or colleagues who might be around when the box comes in from the printer or the contributor copies are picked up from wherever. But holding the book or magazine or newspaper in my hand has sometimes left me feeling almost bored and hollowed, and other times made me slightly queasy. The paper stock has not often been what I would have liked; the spaces between the section breaks have not been big enough. The sentences look weird set with the narrower margin or in the unfamiliar font, and inevitably some awkward phrase or six will catch my eye. Before I sent each manuscript on its way there was likely a point when I read what I had labored over and finally felt a pleasing zing zing zing from the rhythms of the words and ideas, and that’s when I would have called it done. But somehow the song of things I’ve written has mostly disappeared for me in the time between its leaving my screen and appearing somewhere else. And anyway, I’d be on to something else.
I had such a different reaction when I received the galleys for CURRENCY. They arrived at my editor’s house the day before Christmas Eve, so traffic was terrible and my to-do list was long, and it was snowing and cold and dark by 4:00 PM. If my husband hadn’t offered to put the kids in the car and pick me up after work and drive me down to Gina’s, I’m not sure I would have summoned enough real or manufactured excitement to make the effort. (I hate driving, so it doesn’t take much to make me beg off it.) But riding back home in the passenger seat and paging through the book in the street glow, I felt a joy that was like a deep physical relief. My son wanted to see the sole copy I’d been given, and I was proud to have it to show him, but I quickly asked for it back. Clasped in my lap, it felt like the golden ball of light referred to by yoga teachers leading visualizations, a glow originating from the object in my hands, rising up my spine, filling my svadhisthana chakra, my heart chakra, my mind’s eye–you know, all those spiritual locales that one might catch a glimpse of in a great yoga class but that in the cruel light of day can seem to be rainbow-hued fantasias. It’s true that I haven’t read the whole book, and that I have already found an error, but so far nothing I’ve glanced at has made me want to throw up. It’s made me happy and proud.
I’ve called this manuscript done so many times, and I’ve been wrong so many times, but now, thanks to Stacy Bierlein and Gina Frangello‘s thoughtful editing and to Allison Parker‘s careful copyedit, I know that it’s the best that it can be. Thanks to Lisa Meehan Williams’s photographs and Melissa Lucar and Steven Seighman‘s design and OV Books‘ and Dzanc Books‘ exacting aesthetic and respect for literature, it is a beautiful thing. The paper quality is amazing. The space between the section breaks is just right. And thanks to Kathy Kosmeja and Gina, who not only braved the dark and cold and snow on Christmas Eve’s eve, but also the post office, potential reviewers all over the country might as I type have a copy of CURRENCY if not in their hands, then on their desks. That other people are making such an effort for a novel I wrote makes me want to cry tears of ecstatic gratitude, as anyone who has sent out scores of manuscripts and written scads of fruitless cover letters and made innumerable schleps to the post office on their own behalf can probably understand. OK, I’m gushing. I should stop now. But this is not obligatory excitement. This is the real thing. It’s the best Christmas present ever, for sure.