In The Wall Street Journal, Toby Young wrote a sarcastic review of David Goodwillie’s summer release, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. Mr. Goodwillie is a writer who chronicled his post-graduate struggles to pursue his literary dreams after arriving in New York with $10,000 from his father. Kirkus called it “A memoir of bilious excess, related with humor and just the right amount of acidic sadness.”
I don’t know why I’m in the mood for some bilious excess. Maybe because I’m saddled with edits for the upcoming book, finishing new proposals, working FT in a day job, and a booksigning out of town this weekend to help raise money for literacy. I want Mr. Goodwillie’s book. In my ordinary world, I want to read about a man searching for meaning in his life while working at Sotheby’s doing baseball card auctions and struggling to fulfill his dream of becoming “a writer.”
Notice the quote marks. This is because in the literary world, although I’ve published four (five in March) mass market paperbacks, and three e-books, I am not considered a ‘writer” because I write (gasp!!!) romance novels. You know, those sex books.
I want Mr. Goodwillie’s book because I’ve never pursued the bohemian dream to become “a writer” because I was too busy doing mundane stuff like working to pay the electric bill. I’ve never lived in the Big Apple or squirreled away my life experiences like acorns to bind them together in print. I suspect Mr. Goodwillie’s book will fuel my secret dream to abandon all my responsibilities (like the mortgage) and leave it all behind to climb a mountain in Tibet and smoke dandelions while staring into the sky, listening for the ghost voice left behind by the Dali Lama.
I too, have a bleeding heart, but it’s not gushing blood. Instead it weeps, clotted over by my pragmatic knowledge of how the world works. I work in a job that raises money to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for orphans. One of those orphans who lives in Haiti has a bright future ahead of her, which is the roundabout way of how I chanced upon David Goodwillie. He’s a graduate of the college the girl is considering. My bleeding heart weeps for this orphan to attend college, and fulfill her dreams.
As for me, all sarcasm aside, I’ve always wanted to BE a WRITER. Live those literary experiences like William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), travel and stay at seedy hotels while pounding away at my keyboard, sweat out the dream in dim, smoke-filled rooms where writers sip whiskey and philosophize about words while experiencing “My Struggle” to write them. Maybe even have sweaty, squeaky anonymous sex on a thin mattress in a room with onionskin walls.
I want Mr. Goodwillie’s book because perhaps if I can’t live the dream of “becoming a writer” than I can fulfill this desire through his words. Besides, his last name makes me smile.
Mr. Young, the critic, also wrote a memoir that was released this summer, called The Sound of No Hands Clapping. It is with a glimmer of amusement that I notice that Mr. Young’s sales rank of said book on Barnes and Noble is much higher than Mr. Goodwillie’s, meaning that Mr. Goodwillie’s memoir is selling better.