Power! Fame! Women! It's hard to believe but life at the top sucks to high heaven.
An autocrat of the breakfast table once told me that everything changes when your first book comes out. He was alluding to sudden interest from the opposite sex, and thumbing his way through first edition skirts at boozy book launches in Soho. But publishing is like a pregnancy: no two cases are alike. I am 45. Happily married to my sweetheart of 18.2 years. And though I have the coolest English accent in town, there is no literary scene to be shagged senseless in Atlanta. Notwithstanding personal circumstances and lofty ambitions, I have ended up as a cult figure and gonzo advocate for reforming the overlooked social institutions of Western Society.
Existential self pity in Midtown Atlanta
But rather than wallow in existential self pity, and self aggrandizement, I must get to grips with completing the first novel. The manuscript is about 70,000 words. If I follow the revised treatment of the story it might take four to six months to complete. But hang on a mo, I am getting ahead of myself. I don't have a gorgeous, pouting literary agent or a publishing house interested in my worthy scrawl and scribblings of gibberish. I had best get on the blower and call up London right away.
Laurence Harvey (1961)
I haven't had a literary agent in a year but a fat lot of good they've done me in the past. I've gone through four in a decade with the clumsy finesse of a selfish lover. In all fairness to myself, and my supercomputer genius, none of them were any bloody good. In fact, they were a bit like the Royal Air Force in Afghanistan, "utterly, utterly useless." Maybe I should stop right here, go down the pub, get drunk and forget about writing altogether? No: patience and dedication has a tendency to pay off. I'd best stick at it. And vainly attempt to restore the spiritual and intellectual architecture of my interior (Ed. note: fat chance of that).
I have been thinking about Thomas Wolfe this week. Of all the passages that he has written, his most famous is probably the concluding one that is also the title of his great American novel. In You Can't Go Home Again, the main character, a writer named George Webber, has returned to his hometown of Libya Hill only to discover social enmity and a superficial, frenetic atmosphere. He realizes that no one can return home and expect things to be as they were. The forces of time and change are just too strong.
“You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of 'the artist' and the all-sufficiency of 'art' and 'beauty' and 'love,' back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time -- back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
“Man is born to live, to suffer, and to die, and what befalls him is a tragic lot. There is no denying this in the final end. But we must deny it all along the way.”