I went to lunch with an editor this week. I had sent her a novel which she loved, but couldn’t get any support to acquire it. She said the publisher had one iron clad criteria for acquiring books: there had to be someone to root for. There is was, four simple words: someone to root for. How, after 25 years in publishing, had I failed to get the memo?
Aren’t the greatest characters of all time deeply flawed, morally compromised, tragically poised, and often irredeemable? And why the hell do characters have to change? Isn’t it enough to know them better or watch them sink like Herzog, Hamlet, and Humbolt? Sympathetic characters who learn their lessons need not apply.
I want you tortured, disturbed, diminished, and drunk. I want you abandoned, lonely, jealous, and alone. I want characters who suck all the air out of a room, who you run from at a party, who always ring twice. I want it messy, hysterical, certifiable. I want too much or not enough. I want to root for every abject thing, for “the mole on the belly of an exquisite whore,” for the most glorious monster and the lowest angel. Unsympathetic, undeserving, unapologetic, unrootable. These are my people.
Who do you root for?
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