APRIL FOOL'S DAY: "Joke's on Me!"
Friday, April 1, 2011
“Beggin’ for blurbs,” as I call it, is the author equivalent of a wedgie: You know what’s coming is going to be painful, but you can’t stop it.
My last “official” wedgie occurred on April Fool’s Day decades ago when our rural Eddie Haskell asked, “Knock, knock? Who’s there?”, and before I could reply, said, “Your underwear!”, before lifting me into the air by my Hanes. It’s a punchline I still don’t get, considering the comedy was entirely physical.
Flash forward twenty years to the publication of my first memoir. One of the initial media interviews I conducted was on April Fool’s Day, a week before America’s Boy was set to publish.
I felt ready to conquer the world.
But the DJ asked what it felt like to be compared to Augusten Burroughs and Haven Kimmel, the two memoirists mentioned in my jacket copyd, as well as David Sedaris.
It was then I knew I was damned.
“Have you met them?” the Morning Zoo asked me. “Are they as hilarious in person?”
The closest I have ever come to Burroughs, Kimmel or Sedaris is “beggin’ them for blurbs.”
In fact, I spent weeks crafting a pitch letter to these writers I’d never met but long admired. I perfected prose that was complimentary, but not stalker-ish; hilarious yet poignant.
Then I spent hours staring at the “Send” icon, wondering what these authors were doing at that very moment.
Was Burroughs between pieces of Nicorette and, if so, be irritated when he opened the e-mail?
Was Amy Sedaris making a bologna casserole for David? And would my e-mail be funny enough to make him go, “Get over here, Amy. This Wade Rouse is funnier than Two and A Half Men. We must blurb.”
Of course not.
Burroughs’ assistant kindly said he no longer provided blurbs.
I tried for six months to contact Sedaris, which proved more painful than giving myself rhinoplasty.
Kimmel kindly agreed to read my manuscript, if she had time.
I never heard from her again.
I assumed she despised the book, and, thus, opted not to send, “This Is the Worst Piece of Crap I’ll Ever Read in My Life!” Which is a shame, because my publicist could easily have edited that to read: “This Is the … Piece … I Will … Read [All] My Life!”
I harbor no ill-will. They’re busy, trying to lead normal lives, and I realize they’re overwhelmed by such requests.
I guess I’d just like to see some publishing evidence that blurbs really help sell books, or if they are simply internal ego-boosters, like literary Botox.
Ironically, moments after my April Fool’s media debacle, a well-known author I’d asked for a blurb e-mailed – a year after my request – with a catty note, the basic sense of which was, “Do you know who I am?”
Yes. Which is why I had asked in the first place.
My April Fool’s joke was no longer funny. Which is why my partner, Gary, dragged me to a psychic.
To undo the blurb curse.
Now, I don’t believe in psychics. They are the equivalent of Ron Popeil in a turban.
However, Gary adores one particular back alley medium, who wears a pound of purple eyeshadow and has more feral cats than teeth.
“She has ‘the gift,’” Gary told me.
It cost me $50 for a half hour, roughly what my dentist charges, money I’m convinced he doesn’t spend on cat food and vodka.
When we arrived, the psychic led me to a dark room, incense burning, pushed me into a rickety chair in front a cloth-draped table, and stared into a glass ball I’m convinced she bought at Spencer’s.
She leaned dramatically across the table, grabbed my hands, shut her eyes.
“I can feel your stress,” she said. “I see great things in your future, if you can just transcend your doubt.”
Gary whispered, “Concentrate, Wade. Unchain your baggage. Release the image of Augusten Burroughs. Let go of Haven Kimmel. Set the Sedaris spirit free.”
Just like that, the psychic dropped my hands as if they were made of concrete, and screamed, “Oh, my God, you know them? They’re my favorite writers! Are they as funny in person?”
I clamped my eyes shut, and concentrated. In fact, for once I swore I could hear the spirits talking, telling me something very specific:
“Start writing fiction. Perhaps novelists blurb.”