Volume 2, Issue 48: Deconstructing Harry
|Will Leitch||Mar 2, 2019|
Wednesday, while in town to film this week's "The Will Leitch Show," had you run into me on the streets of New York, you would have seen me lugging around a massive box under my left arm. I had forgotten how much of a pain in the ass it is to schlep anything around New York. I usually just have my computer bag strapped over my shoulder or, if I'm trying to catch a cab to the airport, maybe a small suitcase being dragged behind me. It had been a long time since I'd carried something so unwieldy, block after block, asking people to excuse me, pardon me, as I squeezed through tight spaces with this stupid clunky box that doesn't fit anywhere. Schlep truly is the perfect word for the experience. No place has ever made me feel more like a pack mule than New York City.
The reason I was schlepping this misshapen box around the West Village was because, this week, I turned in my novel to my agent. I was unnecessarily theatrical about this. First off, I didn't even inform my agent I was even writing a book, let alone a novel, until about two weeks ago. I have an excellent agent, but I am not an excellent client, in that I have not written a book for him in nine years. My last book came out in 2010, and since then, while I've certainly been productive, none of that productivity has ever resulted in a book. In the time since my last book was published, I got married, I had two children, I moved to Georgia, I added about six other jobs ... I've been a little busy. So, as if to justify my absence from my agent's docket for so long, I decided to write the book mostly in secret. We don't need to get into the details of the book just yet, but it's fair to say it's a bit off-brand: Fiction, with nothing to do with sports or movies or politics whatsoever. Rather than wait to get anyone's approval, I decided to just sit and write it in those dwindling moments once referred to as "spare time." This was a change for me as well: Every book I've ever written had the deal signed before I was finished with it. This time, I wanted to see if we could sell the thing as a (mostly) finished product. Then, to wrap it all up, in some big grand gesture, I'd just show up one night in New York City with the whole thing printed out and bound just so I could hand it to my agent.
Again: This was all performative. I could have just emailed him the Word file like a normal person. (I in fact did this very thing the next day.) This wasn't the plot of a bad '90s movie, in which this was my only copy and that if I left it in a cab a year's worth of work would be down the drain. (Alternately, the movie scene features me dropping the box on a windy street and all the pages blowing away.) I just wanted to physically hand it to him. Practically speaking, though, all this did was make him the person schlepping this huge box down the street the rest of the night rather than me.
I assume, I hope, he's reading the book right now, and I'm sure I'll spend the next fortnight fretting about what he thought. But that was sort of the risk of this whole project. I didn't pitch the idea to anyone, I didn't outline out the plot, I didn't run the story by anyone to see if it makes sense. I just sat down and wrote it. As of this moment, the only person who has read it is me, and I have zero idea if it's any good at all. (I'm the worst person to ask, always.) I don't really care if it sells for a bunch of money, or a big company wants it or anything; I just want it published. If it turns out the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Press is the only place interested in binding and selling the darned thing, that's fine. Nobody writes books to get wealthy, or even to make minimum wage on the amount of time they spent working on it. I just needed to get the book out of my system. And I needed my big grand dramatic gesture of schlepping it around everywhere.
It is a surprise to me that, even with all the familial distractions, that it has taken me nine years to write another book. My plan was always to write a book every two years, pretty much like clockwork, and to do that for the rest of my life. The four books I've already published all came out over a six-year span.
Life As A Loser (2004)
It wasn't just getting married and having kids that halted my book-writing career, though. God Save the Fan was by far my best-selling book, and there was considerable momentum for the next one. Rather than stick with Harper Collins and David Hirshey, my editor on GSTF and my good friend to this day, we switched to Hyperion and their editor-in-chief Will Balliett, who personally told me he was as excited to publish Are We Winning? as he had been to publish anything in years. As happens all the time in the publishing industry, though ... Balliett left Hyperion just a few months before the book came out and, as also happens all the time, the book was left without an advocate among his successors. So Are We Winning?, which I think is pretty clearly my best book, sort of died on the vine: It imploded on the launch pad. I told myself I'd take a break from books for a while to lick my wounds. The break ended up lasting nine years. My last book release party was May 4, 2010. Looking at pictures from it is a time capsule to another life all together.
And who knows, maybe the break will end up lasting longer. It's possible this book I've just written is unpublishable: I honestly have no idea. But I'm glad I finally shut up and got down to the business of writing one again. I'd missed working on something of that scope, and, frankly, I'd missed the wistful indulgence of doing something as stupid as carrying a manuscript through the West Village in the snow on a February night. Even if the book doesn't turn out, I'll always have that. I hope its size didn't throw my agent's back out. He's getting older too, after all.
I also hope, if it does come out, that you will buy it. And if it does turn out to be unpublishable, I can assure you of this: I will never, ever mention it to you again.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.
1. Who's Affected the Most by the Arenado Extension? MLB.com. My New York columns will return next week. I took a couple weeks off from them to wrap up the book.
2. Review: "Climax," Paste Magazine. It had been more than a month since my last straight movie review, which was too long.
3. Best Picture Winners, Ranked, Updated, Vulture. We updated it with Green Book, ugh.
4. Who Will Beat Bryce Harper's Extension? MLB.com. Apparently that was all this was about anyway.
5. Your NL West Preview, MLB.com. Updated, hastily, after Harper.
6. Debate Club: Best Horror Sequels, SYFY Wire. Evil Dead 2 forever.
7. Interview With Eddie Van Halen, GOLF Magazine. Remind me to tell you about this one someday.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
Episode Two of Season Two features Russell Hornsby, who is fantastic in The Hate U Give and also was on the old ESPN "Playmakers," and also me wearing a Fighting Illini lapel pin. Watch it on it on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, we recapped that pretty-good-until-the-end Oscar show, then discussed "Fighting With My Family," "Paddleton" and "Badlands."
Seeing Red, we're back to our weekly shows, though, alas, we missed a lot of news that happened right after we taped.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
Also, I was a guest on Effectively Wild, the best baseball podcast of all time, talking about the 2019 Cardinals season. And Jesse Thorn was the co-host!
GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL POWER RANKINGS
Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined the race this week. I don't know much about the man, but he's been a staunch environmentalist for more than 40 years, back before it was cool, and my editor's new book -- which you should buy immediately -- has me so climate terrified that you can make a case it's the best possible platform you could run on. Also: He hasn't lost an election in nearly 25 years, which I also like. Updated rankings!
1. Kamala Harris
2. Elizabeth Warren
3. Kirsten Gillibrand
4. Jay Inslee
5. Pete Buttigieg
6. Julian Castro
7. Amy Klobuchar
8. Cory Booker
9. Bernie Sanders
10. Andrew Yang
11. John Delaney
12. Marianne Williamson
13. Tulsi Gabbard
14. William Weld
Let's see if Beto throws his hat in next week.
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
This project got a shoutout on the Effectively Wild podcast this week. It's downright silly that you haven't written me yet.
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
"Dry the Rain," The Beta Band. More than just that scene in "High Fidelity" ... but that scene is still pretty great.
These boys of mine live the good life.
Hopefully your weekend goes half as well as his is going.