Serendipity and After/3

a novel about publishing of a novel

Sunday morning. There’s a nice drizzle outside. I’m alone in my apartment. My wife has gone over to stay with our daughter for a week. Her absence always triggers my creativity and I get such a surge sometimes that I find myself writing day and night like crazy. Except of course those three hours in the morning when I have to attend my clinic.

So I’m now working on my latest project — a 1000-page novel of which I’ve just written 200 words so far. I usually do it on Sundays when my clinic is closed. But there is always some glitch and I have to postpone it.

But this morning I’m very determined to do some real writing.

Suddenly, the phone rings. Oh my God, I have forgotten to switch it off. I look at my phone’s screen. Hey, it’s my publisher calling. I adjust in my chair and sit up. I feel a flutter in my chest.

“Hello! Good morning.”.

“Morning. Are you busy?”

“I was just writing a little.”

“Are you working on another novel?”

“Not exactly. It’s actually my penultimate project — a 1000 page novel.”

“Sorry? How many pages?”

“1000.”

“It must be worth two pieces of brick in weight and volume. Nobody in his right mind ever writes a novel that size these days.”

“ It’s a very serious work, like War and Peace, I like to call it my magnum opus, and I want to pour into it all of my creativity and energy.”

“Ha. You’re writing another War and Peace then. I had a good idea of you.”

“It’s my dream, you know. I have nourished it ever since my childhood when I first wanted to be a writer.”

“Since you’re now a writer of my house, I should tell you that no one will read it. No one will publish it. Fuck the quality. As for myself, I would not even touch it, let alone read it. These days I check the weight of a MS first before I open it.”

“I get it. But it’s a meticulously designed project in which the writer dies the moment he puts down the last line of the book.”

“Is it any kind of game?”

“Oh no. It’s how I’m finally planning my death. Just think you fall dead over your keyboard as you finish your book.”

“You drive me crazy. I call you for some important business.”

“Please, please.”

“Let me start with this question: would you, as a doctor, advise anybody to gain weight?”

“Umm. It actually depends. Suppose you come to my clinic with your skinny girl-friend and I find her anemic and underweight. In this case I would advise her to gain some weight. She would definitely look more sexy with a bit more weight, and you may even come to thank me for my advice.”

“Oh shit. Let me now ask you straightaway, why do you want to add pages to your novel?”

“It’s actually not me, my editor Ramaswamy, who wants to add it.”

“Who’s the writer of the novel — you or Ramaswamy?”

“Don’t get excited. During excitement there’s lot of adrenaline secretion which actually harms our system. You should relax and hear me. The thing is, my editor deleted some chapters from the novel, which he didn’t think fit ten years ago. Now he wants to put them back in their places. Now he thinks the novel looks poorer and incomplete without them.”

“I can’t figure out the rationale behind it. The rule of the thumb is, once you discard something, you discard it for ever. No question of restoring. Is it a child’s play?”

“I admit it’s a bit unusual. But such things happen in art, you know. It’s about aesthetics. What you love today, you may not like it tomorrow.”

“But he’s doing just the opposite. What he didn’t love ten years ago, he is now loving it.”

“This too can happen. In fashion, for example, you see the return of old things.”

“Please stop. Don’t you understand that you add chapters and my cost of production shoots up?”

“I understand. But don’t you sometimes overspend to buy, say, some fancy jewellery for your girl-friend?”

He laughs at this point.

I tell him, “It’s art. you need to consider it.”

“Well , I’ll consider it for my business.”

“Thank you. I know you are a connoisseur of literature.”

“No flattery, please.Tell me how many more pages your editor wants to add?”

“Not many, I suppose.”

“I want exact number, no vague answer.”

“I need to talk to my editor.”

“Is he done with that restoration and all?”

“Yes, He started doing it on Tuesday evening, and has finished it on Saturday morning. He has worked non-stop, like a possessed man, without food, drink and sleep. Can you imagine?”

“I don’t want to imagine. He scares the shit out of me. A nightmare. Once this addition thing is over, I’m sure he will raise other issues. I’ve been in this business for two decades. I can smell trouble. I wonder why you don’t do it yourself.”

“ I’m busy with this novel, you know, and he’s a very trusted friend with excellent literary tastes and acumen. Shadowland needs him, not me at this stage.”

“I’ve never seen such a weird writer like you,” he says in a miffed voice. “Anyway, I’m going to send a man to your editor this week to get those added chapters. I need to do fresh layout. I’ve to get the book out on time.”

“Thanks. So kind of you to consider those extra chapters.”

“I hope you’re now going to write that 1000-page novel now.”

He snapped the line. I also shut down my laptop.

Wow. It’s a big win for me.

I hope my publisher is not reading this novel.