If you haven’t seen “Shelf Life” by Adrian Tomine, the hilarious cover of the current New Yorker, it’s worth seeking out. There’s a teeny tiny version of it on this page and a bigger version on the artist’s website here (currently the 4th box in the top row). It depicts the book publishing process in nine wordless panels. 1. Author writes book. 2. Agent presents book (and author) to publisher. 3. Publisher loves book. 4. Publisher prints book. 5. Book arrives in bookstores. 6. Reader enjoys book. 7. Reader discards book. 8. Homeless person finds discarded book. 9. Homeless person and friend warm themselves on a cold evening by burning discarded book in a barrel.
You’ll notice that by the 9th panel the book is serving a very useful physical function, which is something we can all aspire to.
I bring up this mini tragicomedy of authorial effort because I have just completed my rewrite of Art Saves Lives and have sent it off to my agent, which means I am in that anticipatory twilight zone, floating around in the featureless whiteness somewhere between panels 1 and 2, hoping against hope that someday someone will warm themselves by my words. That is, I hope to get the gears rolling so I can make it to panel 9.
Not that I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs while I wait. I have jumped into the rewrite of the next book, The Last Giant, with wild abandon.
Really now, what’s not to like about the writing life?