Friday, July 25, 2014

The Worst Novel In the History of Humankind

If there is a lesson to be found in this life-crushing medical nightmare of mine, it’s this: most things aren’t that bad in comparison.
To be honest, my unexpected illness kicked off an avalanche of bad shit in my life. But as I sit here this morning at my desk by the window, I am proud – maybe even a little surprised – that nothing’s made me crack quite yet. People sometimes tell me I’m the strongest person they know. At this point, I’m staring to think they might be right.
Here are some challenges I’ve faced since all this started (not necessarily in order) and how the “new and improved” Susan has chosen to react to them.
My mother died last October. I was devastated and I miss her every day. But as woo-woo as this may sound, I still feel her.  Maybe going mano-a-mano with death myself has left me more open-minded about life and energy, but I swear she is still here. I believe she'll always be.
My son wrecked my car. Sure, I was hacked off, but he wasn't hurt and it was just a car. I got another one. I don’t let him drive it.
My brain took so long to heal that my income stream dried up. Some books were finished years past their deadlines or not finished at all. But I kept going, one month at a time, hoping for the best, having faith that I would eventually be able to write like I used to.
Then the day came that I couldn’t afford my humongous medical co-pays. Next, it was my living expenses. I had to drain my savings and much of my retirement just to keep going, but, hey, at least I had savings to drain, right? It’s not like I had to declare bankruptcy.
            I had to declare bankruptcy. I lost my beloved old house. But I managed to find a nice, single-story home to rent while I got my life back on track, a place big enough to operate as home base for my college-aged kids. During this time of transition, my friends rallied around me, gifting me with love and support and furniture moving. It was easy to see that I was blessed. I held on to the gratitude. I hung on to the belief that it would get better.
           Even when it didn't.
The sweet, loving, and generous man to whom I had given my heart decided I was too much effort. No, this is not the young “hottie” from my earlier blog, though it may have a familiar ring to it. This man is my age. I'd known him for twenty years. He was a friend. But after about a year as a couple, he decided he was done. No particular reason, he said – he just would rather play Frisbee golf than be with me. Ouch! Didn’t see that one coming! So what did I do, you may ask? Did I chase him down like a dog in the street? Of course not. I’ve never been the dog-chasing type, even when I had two legs. I simply let him go, set him free to chase his Frisbees. It felt like a betrayal, and it hurt a lot. 
But something else started to hurt more. The dull ache in my “good” leg got so painful I couldn’t continue physical therapy, and doctors found a congenital malformation of my right hip that would need surgery in early 2015. The joint disintegrated much faster than anticipated, however, and the pain got so horrible that I was confined to my wheelchair 24/7. The surgery was moved up to August. Yes, it’s rotten timing, since I’m in the middle of several writing projects. But it has to be done. 
Next up: I had to hire a lawyer because my ex-huuuuh . . .  whoops! I almost forgot that I’m not allowed to talk about this. So I'll just say that  the absolutely last fucking thing I needed right now was a court battle with the father of my children, the man I was with from the age of twenty-two to forty-five. But that’s exactly what I got.
And as the pièce de résistance . . . drum roll please . . . the IRS is really mad because I’m still behind in my taxes, despite my best efforts to catch up. The bright side is I’ll probably get a lot of writing done in federal prison, where there are fewer living expenses and distractions. Plus, my kids won’t be able to hit me up for cash at all hours, with the metal bars and all. Think of the savings!
           And so, dear blog-follower, I have survived all this and more. Sure, I can get ratcheted up about crap occasionally, but not the way I used to, back in the B.A. (before amputation) era. Nowadays, life seems simpler. I do my absolute best at any given moment and have faith that everything will be all right – or it won’t. I’ll make it through – or I won’t. And there is no point in twisting myself into knots over shit I can’t control, right? 
Then one morning . . . oh, Susan! Susan, Susan, Susan, Soooo-zaaaan! What were you thinking? How could you? Haven’t you been tortured enough for several lifetimes? What in the world possessed you to go online to see if anyone had reviewed your latest novel?
            Yep. They had.
"…awkward, raw underage sexuality …"? 

An anonymous review had appeared in the June 30, 2014 Publishers Weekly. For the non-authors reading this, a review in “PW ” is considered a coup. With thousands of books being published in print and e-format each month, having your popular fiction novel selected for a PW write-up is a really big deal. I’ve had PW reviews before, and some of them have been wonderful. It’s quite affirming when that happens. However, the review of my upcoming August release, The Sweetest Summer, was anything but affirming. Have a look-see:
“Donovan (Sea of Love) opens this ostensible romance with a most unromantic prologue of obscenity-laced, macho dialogue among adolescent boys. The most profane and contemptuous of the lot grows up to be 32-year-old Clancy Flynn, a divorcé and a coward. Oh, and the chief of police, because this is a romantic thriller, with a child in peril, a slimy federal politician, and more than a few laws broken—many of them by the heroine, Evelyn McGuinness, who crosses state lines to abduct her orphaned niece. Once past the decidedly off-putting entr’acte, Donovan lays down a plot that entertains, but it’s staffed by characters who clearly exist to fill a genre slot or set up a few gags. The obvious puppet strings prevent strong reader identification with the story’s imbroglios, situational or emotional. The success of the story hinges on flashbacks to 14-year-old Clancy falling in love with Evie the first time, and the awkward, raw underage sexuality will make some readers squirm and others sigh. (Aug.)”

That is, by far, the worst review I have ever received in my fourteen years as a novelist. Perhaps it is the worst review, period, of any novel ever written in the history of all humankind. It took me days to uncross my eyes.
All my writer friends said, “Let it go. Let it go.” They are right, of course. It isn’t worth getting worked up about, especially since I don’t even recognize the novel described, because it’s not the one I wrote. For whatever reason, the nameless individual’s evisceration of my little book was way more than a review of a paperback mass-market romantic comedy/suspense beach read featuring teenagers who kissed a few times and once rolled around in the sand while fully clothed. Only that person knows what fueled such a spasm of polyglot-tastic spite.
So here's the question: Am I going to let The Church Lady’s book review take me down? Of course not! Not after fighting so hard to remain alive and hopeful these last couple of years. That would be ridiculous.
I decided to have a little fun, instead.  I got out my thesaurus, then found my French and Italian dictionaries, and voila! I wrote a review of the review! Check it out. It’s short:
           “Anonymous (Publishers Weekly) -- take that ostensible imbroglio of a book review and shove it up the off-putting entr’acte of your genre slot.
      Susan Donovan.”

Hey, I said I was strong. I didn’t say I was a saint.


Monique said...

Anyone who writes a review under the title a gutless coward! Basically, if he doesn't like your books...he shouldn't read your books...and leave them for the rest of us to enjoy. (and by the way...from me, since you didn't say...He can kiss my Patoot)

Gail Barrett said...

That review makes no sense. None.