Monday, September 10, 2007

Grapefruit Moon and Other Stories

It's been awhile since I dug into the vaults of Children's Books That Never Were. There's a book I've been hesitant to share with you and that's because the editor of this never-before-seen manuscript feared MotherReader's ire. You see, MotherReader is the president of BACA, or Bloggers Against Celebrity Authors, and there was a point when my hapless editor, Garrulous MacKenzie, entertained the notion of jumping on the celebrity children's book author band-wagon. Fortunately, the deal didn't go through, and MacKenzie retained the dignity with which he had started out. All that is left of the original exchange with the potential celebrity author is a book cover and two letters. Is the canon of children's literature better or worse off as a result? You decide:

Dear Tom Waits,

You have no idea how thrilled I was to receive the manuscript for your children’s book, Grapefruit Moon and Other Stories. I’ve been watching with envy the parade of celebrity children’s book authors that have bankrolled other publishing houses. I have been hoping to snag a Spike Lee, Jerry Seinfeld or Madonna of my very own, and now I’ve got one in you, Tom Waits. May I just tell you right now what a fan I am of your work? I’m confident that your songs will transpose themselves eloquently onto the written page as short stories for the discriminatingly cynical child. I have a few teensy suggestions for Grapefruit Moon and Other Stories-- nothing major, because celebrity authors really don’t need much in the way of editing. However:

1) There is way too much cigarette smoking in your stories. Maybe you could have your characters chew gum instead? Lots of parents don’t like their children to chew gum, so I’m confident that you’ll still maintain the rebellious edge for which you are so admired.

2) The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, and 19 in Canada. We can talk about the international market for subsequent printings, but I advise you to remove all references to imbibing alcohol for now. Parents are going to be reading your stories to their children at bedtime, and we don’t want to give the adults nightmares, now do we? They're the ones buying the books, after all.

3) The last tale, “Children’s Story,” starts off classically enough ("Once upon a time there was a poor child, with no father and no mother, and everything was dead, and no one was left in the whole world…"), which is good to see. You have some compelling metaphors, such as the moon being a “piece of rotten wood” and the sun as a “wilted sunflower,” but when you have the child return to earth to find the planet is “an overturned piss-pot,” you really leave your readers hanging. I think you need more resolution than, “Okay, there’s your story! Night-night!”

I have penciled in some suggestions in the margins of your manuscript. Please return it to me with your corrections as soon as possible so that we can get things rolling with advanced reader’s copies, marketing ploys and national book tours. I’m so confident that your short story collection is going to lift my publishing house out of debt and into the mainsteam I’ve decided to devote funding from the other children’s book authors on my payroll to Grapefruit Moon and Other Stories.

Before I forget-- would you send me your autograph and sign it, "To Gary, my number one fan, love, Tom Waits?"

Your #1 fan,
Garrulous “Gary” MacKenzie
Chief Editor of Bonytoes Books

A few weeks later:

Mr. Waits--
Well, if that’s the way you feel about my suggestions, then forget about it. The whole three book deal is off.

--Garrulous MacKenzie


ElsKushner said...

As a fellow BACA member and a Tom Waits fan, I must shout with glee about this latest addition to your archives!

I'm becoming quite fond of Garrulous MaKenzie, too.

Anonymous said...

OH MY, that was funny! Thanks for the laugh.

I have a children's music CD collection (a series of mixes) I created, and it's got a Tom Waits lullaby on it. No kidding. Ever heard it? I love his gruff 'ol voice singing a lullaby and how it, likely, jolts the listener.

Thanks again! Love this post.

Vivian Mahoney said...

This is priceless. Garrulous MacKenzie rocks!

Saints and Spinners said...

Bookbk: Thanks! I wasn't quite sure if it would work or not, but I had to get it out there so I could move on.

Jules: I've seen the lyrics to some of Tom Waits' songs that look like lullabyes, but Bede is the one with the Waits collection-- which song are you thinking of? I'll see if we have it.

HWM: Thanks! Now, let's just hope that Tom Waits doesn't sue me. Wait a minute, I'm confusing Tom Waits with He Who Shall Not Be Named (under pain of legal recourse).

MotherReader said...

That was great! If that book came out, BACA might have to let it slide out of respect for the total audacity of it. Clicking on the Children's Story link really sold it.

Keep 'em coming, these books that never were.

Charlotte said...

Thanks for contributing this post to the September Carnival of Children's Literature, now up and running at my blog!