This article contains crude jokes.
Recently, I completed a young-adult manuscript titled “The Boy Who Became The Greatest Living American Writer.” I intended it to be the first in a four-part trilogy. The books would be set in our world, and in a parallel fantasy world called “England,” populated largely by sexy elves and even sexier mermaids. But now I know that my imagination is wrong, and I live in shame. No apology can be grand enough.
My publisher sent advance pages of my book to judgmental Goodreads critics and other young-adult writers who live angrily in small apartments. An enormous scandal erupted on OM (Old Man) Twitter. Apparently, they were quite envious of my exalted literary status. They tore my book a new orifice.
“Pollack’s writing,” one of them said, “is a vast misogynistic stew of dated attitudes toward gender, race, class, and gender again. Even his depiction of an innocent act of locksmithing ends up desperately clinging to the metaphors of male sexual privilege.”
This critic referred to a passage where my main character’s uncle, a hidden wizard with a terrible crossdressing secret, “penetrates a heaving door-hole with a hard metal shaft.” Until the critic pointed it out, I didn’t recognize the phallic imagery. I’ve been using metaphors like that for so long, it’s become second nature, like a dog in heat that can’t help rubbing up against a pole.
Other “problematic” aspects of my narrative have also come to light. For instance, I describe an ethnically ambiguous character who operates a “dancing and drinking establishment for lonely sailors” as a “suppurating, shameless she-monster.” This, I’ve come to realize, may not be entirely appropriate for children contemplating a transition. I apologize deeply, and know I can do better.
The critic also pointed out the problems with a long segment of the book where my main character, a hopeful young literary genius who is sexually irresistible to everyone he encounters, visits a tropical plantation “so dark that no culture could enter its gates.” I based that part of the narrative on authentic childhood experience. My family owned 900,000 acres of Haitian rubber croppage in my youth.
I have happy memories of standing in my breeches, gazing over the veranda at other children working in the dank forest. Only now, thanks to bloggers, do I realize that I may have been operating from a position of cultural advantage.
You must understand that I’m not deliberately biased towards myself. My mammies raised me on images of Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu, of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. In fact, I was the advertising executive who created the Frito Bandito. It’s not my fault that, because of the cursed painting that hangs in my foyer, I’ve outlived everyone of my generation by decades. Yes, I’ve retained certain attitudes. But a writer has to make a living, and all the money’s in YA now.
Nevertheless, I apologize. I’m sorry for every word I’ve ever written, in every language. All my books, whether about adults or children or ghost-written for people implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, must be considered invalid going forward. I will accept punishment for my crimes of arrogance and insensitivity.
Fortunately, my publisher has set up re-education “library camps” for writers, like me, who commit these sorts of crimes. I’ll be funding these camps because I inherited money from my one true love, Wally Trumbull, who died on that beach at Guadalcanal, so, so long ago. He had a spectacular endowment.
The first camp will offer such courses as “How To Create An Inclusive YA Fantasy World That Will Offend No One,” “Offending No One In An Inclusive YA Fantasy World,” and “How To Donate Profits From Your YA Fantasy Series To Organizations That Represent Persons You May Or May Not Have Offended.” Participants will sign morality clauses and submit prospective pages to a committee for review.
As such, I’ve retitled my novel “The Boy Who Lived A Life Of Privilege And Subsequently Wrote His Overrated Books From That Privileged Perspective.” The Elves of England are no longer sexy, but instead independent elves who cannot be objectified and possess immense personal agency. The plantation of the book is now a worker-owned cooperative that pays fair wages under international trade law.
If this new draft offends anyone, I’m so so, so, so, so sorry in advance. I apologize to everyone I’ve ever offended about everything, especially the vengeful ghost of Norman Mailer. As writers always must, I beg the world’s forgiveness.
Still, that may not be enough. Sometimes my pen just spurts uncontrollably all over the page. I can’t help it.
But I’m getting better.