When Your Book Dies
June 17, 2012 § 32 Comments
Your book is gonna die. Don’t be sad. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not a failure. Your book was good enough, beautiful enough, magical enough. The fact is, most books have the lifespan of the average dragonfly.
Now wait, you say. How bout that dragonfly named To Kill a Mockingbird that is still being read by tenth grade English classes year after year? How bout that teenage vampire dragonfly? How bout that Fifty Shades of Grey Dragonfly that tied up and banged every dragonfly in the swamp and whose damp, gray eggs will hatch endless sequels?
Writer friends, there are dragonflies that live exceptionally long. There are also fishermen on the remote island of Okinawa, and Methuselah of Biblical fame, and Mike Wallace.*
But go back to what I said before. Whether you are self published or published through more conventional channels, there is a period of time when your book flies around living the high life and sitting on lily pads stuffing mosquito larvae down its craw, and gets good reviews, and praise from friends and strangers, and you think it will go on forever. Then, inevitably, as the days pass, its iridescent wings grow stiff and its antennae turn silver.
My own blue dragonfly seems a little slow lately. I have to pulverize his mosquito larvae for him. Put band-aids on his wings. He’s forgetful, and often cranky. He rambles on a lot about the old days (April). He detests loud music and thinks young dragonflies dress like whores.
Yesterday, he flew to my shoulder and just kind of sat there.
Me: Hey, get back up there in the sky.
Blue Dragonfly: I can’t. Sooner or later, my multifaceted eyes will lose their light, my wings will fold and I will spiral down to the dank water of the swamp, to be eaten and crapped out the back of a yellow sunfish.
Me: I never realized how depressing you are.
Blue Dragonfly: Have you read your own writing?
Me: But you’ve got to keep going. People believe in you. My mother thinks you will live forever.
Blue Dragonfly: Your mother also thinks you are a virgin.
Me: I am going to take you to see a televangelist named Benny Hinn. He does miraculous healings. I saw an old lady who could not walk literally dance down the aisles after he punched her in the face.
Blue Dragonfly: Stop it. Stop it with the miracle cures and the Oprah lotion and the Kardashian salve. I am dying. And it is natural. And it is beautiful. As beautiful as your life. All you try to be. And consider this: A part of me might live in your readers. Some part you don’t know about. A shadow that fell in a way that resonated, one tiny inconsequential phrase they recognized as a truth, a shell that finds a home in their pocket, a metaphor they keep on their windowsill and water on Fridays. That is the miracle. The life that goes on.
Me: (eyes filling with tears) You are the wisest damn dragonfly with one foot in the grave in this whole frigging swamp.
And the dragonfly took a hit off his inhaler, coughed, gathered momentum and flew off my shoulder as a shaft of light glittered through his double wings. And it was beautiful, friends. Beautiful.
And there’s always the paperback.
(Blue Dragonfly @GeoAnn)