Monday, August 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Dialogue that sprang after hearing that Leo Tolstoy wished people only to write for posterity, never for their own times

The next guy in line was another overweight middle-aged man. Gloria checked her watch; only twenty minutes left until she could abandon this table and get drunk with the somebodies of this writer’s fair.

"I've got a crack of a deal for you," said the man, setting down a briefcase. He pulled out three reams of paper. Gloria tensed – another white guy with the next Fantasy epic, the seventh this morning.

She tried to sound professional when she asked, "What's the pitch?"

"Your company has printed more copies of Leo Tolstoy's books than any in history. The e-book releases have been brilliant."

At least he aimed higher than being the next Stephanie Meyer. That won him points.

"So you think you write like Tolstoy?"

"I wouldn't tell you if I did.” He patted his stack of papers. “You, and everybody in this building, is never to know what I write."

"Come again?"

"See, we must write for the future and only publish once we're dead. You must believe this because you've profited so much off of Tolstoy’s reprints. I embrace your ideology. For just $100,000 a year, I will hide all of my fiction. I won't even show it to my roommate. Upon my death, it'll be turned over to your publishing house. You'll have every word of it and can plan whatever release schedule you want, secure in the knowledge that no word of it was tainted with desire for fame in my own lifetime."

She leaned to the side. The next three people in line were teen girls dressed in black, who almost certainly thought they were the next Stephanie Meyer. Fine. Mr. Tolstoy had won himself an interview.

"Only one hundred thousand, you say?"

"Per year.” He smiled conciliatorily. “I eat a lot of fastfood, so it won't be that many years."

"So where did you get this idea?"

"For $250,000, I'll die tragically. Look at what posthumous buzz did for Sylvia Plath. It still works, too: The Dark Knight rode Heath Ledger’s corpse. You can paint me as severely tortured or cursed to live in a broken world. Whatever your house digs out of my manuscripts and thinks will sell."

Gloria tried to restrain her smile from leaving the polite zone. "It's against our policy to have writers kill themselves."

"Not a suicide!” he slapped his thigh like she was his best buddy. “I'm just saying I'll go places. Baltimore. Baghdad. Spraypaint in Singapore. If you've got a publicist I could even get into legal troubles, to set up a backstory. A couple of international incidents in China and I bet you'll recoup all your fees on me from the biopic."

"You think big."

"I've got to. I'm planning to write the great novels of the next generation, and they're not even here yet."

"And what do you predict is coming?"

"I can't tell you.” He smoothed out the top sheet on his ouvre. “The only way you'll know is by outliving me and reading my books. Or, watching the news. But if you play it right, I’ll be the news by then."


  1. What an idea!
    What exactly is this "Bathroom" like, John? You certainly have, shall we say, different thoughts there. I do love reading them.

  2. Thanks for the Singapore drop. It made my morning.

  3. Mary, it's a nice little place. Quiet and well-lit, with a random book and some magazines. Just enough blank space to project whatever's going on in my head. I wish every writer had such a spot.

    Ross, my pleasure.

  4. Hmm, now I wonder if any agent has already been propositioned as like so. I can't imagine it hasn't ever crossed anyone's mind before...


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