Saturday, July 30, 2011

For the Love of Quiet Books

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My week wouldn't be complete if I didn't get worked-up about something on the blogosphere. The lucky person who caught my attention this time: Vickie Motter, a literary agent with Andrea Hurst Literary Management. Every Wednesday, she posts a review of a book highlighting what she liked, disliked and whether or not she would have plucked it out of the slush pile. This Wednesday, she featured the book you see to the left, And Then Things Fall Apart. She said that she probably wouldn't have picked it out of the slush pile for the following reason:
Would I represent it? You know, if this had showed up in my slush pile, I would have rejected it. Most likely, the amount of voice and plot (no one dies! haha) would have scared me off, thought it was too much of a risk. And the voice is a bit younger than I normally acquire. Actually, I probably wouldn't have picked it up off the shelf if it hadn't been recommended to me, but I'm so glad it was because I loved every page.
I know agents have a tough job and I don't envy them. Every manuscript they take on carries a fair amount of risk, but nobody dies means it doesn't have a plot? Really? I know that not everyone feels that way. Obviously the agent who decided to represent this didn't feel that way. Apparently, Vickie Motter wouldn't have repped Sara Zarr's much acclaimed and beloved novel Story of a Girl either. Go figure.

Not to pick on Vickie Motter. Agents need to represent material they feel comfortable selling, and what's right for one person might not be right for someone else. I just don't want other writers who are waiting to be published to think that every rejection slip means they aren't killing off enough people or adding enough zing to their manuscripts.

I love books with a strong voice and a thoughtful narrator. For me, all art, including literature, is like a tour guide for our humanity; it helps us see and understand, and that doesn't always happen in the dramatic moments. It happens during the hours in between when we think nobody else is watching.