Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Fifty-Second Year

My wife urges me to play “52” on the lottery. Because this is your lucky year, she says. Your first novel is being published. Your musical comedy,The Gringo Who Stole Christmaswill be performed at Proctors Theatre in December. Your blog appears twice a week on the Times UnionCommunity Blog site. You fixed the snow blower all by yourself, and kept the driveway clear without paying someone else to do it.
Not so fast, I counter. Who says anyone will buy my book beyond my family and friends? So far Amazon ranks it 200,000 among books in terms of sales. The ranking is the same as the population ofAkron, Ohio. The play is $70,000 and nearly a year away from a performance. And the Times Union, while widely read in the capital region, is surely noNew York Times.
You are your worst enemy, she says. You will sabotage the good things. I search her voice for irony. Finding none, I remind her I’m on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder. I picture gazing up at the well-worn soles of thousands of respected authors before me. Ernst Hemingway. Philip Roth. Lorrie Moore. Tennessee Williams. Plenty of writers like me have clasped the first rung and climbed no higher. Plenty of writers like me have clung to the first rung and fallen off.
My wife insists I shoot the lock off my wallet and play the lottery when the jackpot hits $52 million. But the publisher of my novel is small, I counter. I am like a vacuum cleaner salesman, going door-to-door to book stores to get them to stock my book. I remind her the play I wrote needs money and actors. My Times Unionblog appears in the Lifestyles category, near gardening tips and dating adventures, an uncertain platform for an author’s literary debut.
My wife urges me to look at the greater fabric of my life. How the first reviews of my novel on Amazon are all positive. How I wrote my new comedic musical in collaboration with Alex Torres, a well-known known musician and composer, and a reputable director and producer have climbed aboard – a step up from my last play, performed for my daughter’s sixth grade class. How auditions are being held this week to pick a cast. How the Times Union has tripled the number of people who see my posts compared to when I used Blogger.
I remind her that my book is merely one of hundreds of thousands of new books hitting the market each year. A lot of perfectly good books have fallen to the wayside. Gone up in smoke. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I say, purposely using clichés to demean my profession.
My wife is fed up. Take out the garbage, she suggests. Do something useful instead of wallowing in self-pity. I grow defensive but hold back. Fortunately, it’s morning, and I feel positive about life. Then, like clockwork, around 11:30 a.m. the bottom drops out. By mid-afternoon I’m inconsolable. Everything turns dark. I wrack my brain for answers. Low blood sugar? Did my body digest that donut too fast? By mid-afternoon I am performing mental self-torture. My writing sucks. I have no new ideas. I’m not going anywhere. My life is a waste.
Then my brother emails me that he read my book, which he pre-ordered. He said he laughed out loud on the airplane. His wife laughed out loud at the dentist’s office. I feel better. After all, my novel is meant to be funny. I feel like jumping up and down and celebrating. I’ll hang on another day. Or at least a few more hours. I check my wallet and spy a wad of dollars. Maybe they add up to $52. Maybe there’s a lottery ticket out there with my number on it. Perhaps the jackpot’s closing in on $52 million.
Hey, you never know.
David Kalish is the author of the novel, The Opposite of Everything, which will be published in March and is available for purchase now on AmazonHis author events this spring are in Saratoga, Brooklyn, and Long Island. 

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