‘If you really wanna hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably wanna know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like….an all that David Copperfield kinda crap, but I don’t feel like going into it.’
‘For Chrissakes Jerry you can’t do that,’ wailed Marcy choking on the dregs of her martini and stubbing a cigarette into an ash tray with all the lethal ease of a slaughterhouse despatcher on piece work. Marcy was my agent. I was her client. We hated one another.
‘You really can’t introduce yourself to people like that. These days people have to like writers, writers have to like publishers, publishers have to like writers, even agents have to like their clients, apparently.’
‘You are asking me, J.D. Salinger, the champion of adolescent alienation, a writer who is sickened by hypocrisy and corruption to go and schmooze with men in Brooks Brothers suits?’
‘They’re the ones with the generous inside pockets that accommodate the big fat wallets, deary.’
‘ Listen, I would rather jab myself in the eye with this new-fangled thing called a biro, than walk into a room full of jerks that I’m supposed to impress.’
‘Put the pen away Jerry.’
‘I mean; people who can talk, talk – and people who can’t talk write – right?
‘If I could talk why would I bother writing?’
‘I wish you’d shuttup. That’s why I arranged this coaching session. I’m cirrhosing my liver in an attempt to make you understand that things have changed. This, Jerry, is how you get published these days.’
‘Look Marcy.’ I was losing this argument. I’d interrogated some bad bastards during my de-nazification assignments in Germany, besides Marcy they’d all look like the flower girls at a society wedding.
‘No, you look Jerry’, she said pointing a vermillion nail at me and narrowing her eyes like a raptor about to eviscerate a pet bunny, ‘you’ve won this goddamn prize and the lousy reward is a networking event, which you will haul your ass to if it’s the last thing you do.’
‘Jeezus H Christ, Marcy.’
‘Shuttup Jerry,’ she said lighting another cigarette and inhaling like a vacuum cleaner on turbo. She exhaled all over me. I flinched but disguised it with a dismissive snort.
‘So, what in the name of a sonuvabitch marketing man’s wet dream, does one do at a networking event?’
‘It’s simple,’ said Marcy, pouring herself another Martini and siphoning vermouth and gin like a dehydrated ant-eater, ‘ You go to a hotel where you meet publishing industry professionals, you know, publishers, agents and you MAKE NICE Jerry. You talk. You smile. You act like you wanna get published, capische?’
I took a cab downtown. The driver was some kind of wearisome crazy who claimed to know all about writing and stuff. I glanced at his license and saw that his name was Jack; Jack something or other. All the way he was telling me about his terrible compulsion to keep driving to California and back for no discernible reason. And how he wrote a novel on industrial toilet roll with complete and absolute disregard for the semi-colon. I asked him how come he was driving a cab, if he was such a great writer an’ all. That’s when he stepped on the brakes and turned round to fix me with a manic stare, and while all the cabs behind leant on their horns, he told me how his agent had made him go to a networking event.
‘Man, if that’s what it takes to get published,’ Jack said, ‘ I’d just as soon spend my life driving a vomity-stinking cab,at least I’ll have the company of people who I don’t have to pretend to like, I don’t wanna join all those phoneys, being phoney.’
‘Jack,’ I said, ‘you’re right, that’s what they are, they’re all goddamned phoneys; we are the authentic ones. Are you into Zen?’
‘Am I into Zen?’ said Jack waggling his head as a great smile spread across his face, ‘do you dig The Bird?’
‘I like owls’
‘No the Bird, man; Charlie Parker.’
‘He isn’t a publisher or an industry professional is he?’
‘He’s a Boddhisatva man, he might even be God, I could take you to hear him play his sax.’
‘You know what Jack, I’d love to hear God playing the sax, screw Marcy, forget the hotel, but first I’ve got a driving job for ya.’
‘Do you know a place where I could spend fifty years as a mysterious recluse riding on a slim output of novellas, albeit with a massive cult literary following?’
Jack executed a totally illegal U turn at this point and sped back down Fifth Avenue flipping open a cigarette case and offering me a handful of benzedrine.
‘First we pick up my buddy Dean Moriarty,’ said Jack, ‘then we aim this cab into the setting sun and go searching together for cheap wine and literary seclusion.’
‘Amen to that Jack,’ I said feeling my eyeballs execute a 360 and hit the base of my brain with a not unpleasant sensation, ‘Bye phoneys, hallo obscurity!’