Some of my short stories look traditional but aren’t. When they veer too far from the recognized format, I suffer multiple rejections and irrelevant advice on how to make the story better. “Agent of God,” is an example. I floated that story around the internet for a couple of years. For my pains, I received a number of idiotic critiques from people who had no idea what an allegory was. Nonetheless, I persisted, not because I am too arrogant to take good criticism, but because so much out there isn’t.
Eventually, “Agent of God,” found a publisher, two, in fact, the second offer arriving on the heels of the first. So I’m not surprised my recent story, a fable or moral tale of sorts, is completely misunderstood. The publisher who sent the latest rejection said mine was a “decent” story then faulted my structure. He concluded by saying he’d like to see more of my work. Something about the piece gripped him, apparently, but he didn’t know what.
If I were a beginning writer, comments like these would be helpful, I suppose. I’m certain that’s what they are meant to be. But I’m not a new writer. What I look for is an experienced publisher who has enough confidence to view each work afresh, without expectations of formula. Such men and women are as rare as virgin births.
Which brings me to the huffing and puffing about whether or not Bob Dylan deserves the Nobel prize for literature. He is the first songwriter to be so honored and the keepers of the cannon are howling. One of them accused the Nobel committee of pandering to the masses. Another sniffed that the work of Dylan cannot be compared to literary giants waiting in the wings: Don DeLillo, Philip Roth or Joyce Carol Oates. (“Bob Dylan’s Nobel: Does he deserve it?” from Talking Points, The Week, October 28, 2016, pg. 19)
David Remick in NewYorker.com begs the literati to stop exorcising themselves. He reminds them that “Dylan embodies a bardic tradition dating back centuries, before the printed word, to the Greek epic poets and the psalmist.” (Ibid pg. 19) I agree. But I would add Dylan has revived those ancient traditions and given them modern significance, a feat worthy of a Nobel prize.
As for the giants of literature waiting in the wings, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates, their scribbling serves their best and highest use as a cure for insomnia.