March 6, 2013

Editor’s Comments For Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ Manuscript

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Walden
Walden

Dear Henry,

I received and read with great interest your manuscript for Walden: My Sexless Life Amongst the Bean Sprouts. Overall, really great stuff. I just have a few thoughts.

Title: love it. Keep.

But I am a little concerned with your signature. It’s just a hand print? With some squiggles inside of it? Seems kind of weird, I mean, if I didn’t know you well. Consider using the alphabet?

There are a lot of great jokes in here. Saying the residents of Concord would rather walk around with a broken leg than walk around with unfashionable pants — hahaha. Funny because true. I would EXPAND here. Concord citizens would rather ____ than not conform to social pressure. Eat soggy beets? Get kidnapped by pirates? Marry someone simply because they don’t have cholera? I once had a neighbor near Lexington who had three dogs, all of which had really human names. Like Charles, Billy, and Raymond. But then he had a cat whose name was Fluffy McSaddlemonkeys. Weird? Funny?

Quick question: Is the whole book true, even the part about you meeting a farmer and building a spaceship together?

Just so you know, you come across pretty strong in the first chapter, especially in your moral indignation regarding the squalid contentment and mediocrity of the times. You might want to table that and bring it up later (not alienate the reader). Consider replacing it with a charged sex scene between a pure, inexperienced young lady of good moral principle, and a billionaire businessman hunk with a deep, dark secret: he is the world’s #1 ranked concert pianist orphan, and likes to get freaky in bed.

Because what I’m thinking is this: your book is good, truly, but it can have a much broader appeal if you throw in more humor, sex it up a bit, and toss in a female protagonist who’s kind of dumb but then it turns out she’s super smart—amazingly smart, so incredibly smart she was instantly accepted into MENSA before it even existed—but she’s a little quiet because she has a rare genetic disease and her face could explode at any second.

Chapter Three, “Hand-Drawn Selfies of Me Bathing in the Pond,” should be deleted.

Have you considered throwing some recipes into the mix? “Dirt-Beans a la Thoreau.” “Spicy Twigs with Smoked Non-Conformity Beard.” Or “Train Sound Fritatas.”

I recommend that you think about turning this book into other media: a play, a musical, a sweater line. That’s where the big dollars are. And if it’s only one character amongst the bean sprouts, that probably won’t happen. Unless you get a super talented everyman-type actor who can do it for the stage. I’m thinking a bearded Thomas Hanks? But follow my suggestions, and you’ll be the next it author in Cambridge circles, second only to that brilliant claptrap Louis Agassiz. Next year, you, me, and James Russell Lowell have to take his team down in the Harvard 3-on-3 hoops tournament. We would have had ‘em last year if Henry Wadsworth Longfellow hadn’t gone straight Song of the Hiawatha on our asses.

If you get famous enough, they’ll invite you to Europe, and let me tell you, in France and Spain the wine is off-the-charts delicious and strong. So strong you just made out with Emile Zola after taking one sip. That kind of success in your reach.

Please revise and resubmit.

Your pal,

Ralph

P.S. Kickball later? TC mark

Chas Gillespie

Chas Gillespie is a writer and distance runner whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Thought …

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