The story is a familiar one. D writes a novel, his first. It is coloured with the usual youthful indiscretions of overt ambition and inadequate understanding of pacing and plot, and, like all novels written by a man under the age of thirty-five, it seeks to kill all fathers. But there is enough there for the book to receive review attention, mostly on tiny websites and university journals, but one major newspaper picks it up and C, the long-suffering reviewer, compares the novel to lukewarm water, stating that it is pleasant enough in various aspects but not something that anyone could ever really love and which would certainly never inspire a reader to seek out more work by the young author. C closes the review by enumerating the writer’s flaws while promising also to take a good look at whatever D wants to publish next, on the off chance that his potential is somehow realised in a readable work. C allows that he does not hold out much hope for this.
In the annals of literary disagreements, feuds and fights* C’s review is hardly worth noticing, but D, predictably, takes it to heart. He buys as many copies of the newspaper as he can afford and, electing to forego his nightly glass of wine for a week or two, spends a good amount of money laminating the reviews and placing them on the walls of his bedroom.
He thinks of Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez fighting in the streets. He thinks of Norman Mailer’s fondness for knives and Hemingway’s fondness for fists. He thinks of Sassoon, who died nobly, and of those writers who did not fight in wars but who wrote about them. How will I distinguish myself, D thinks, his mind racing to discover an action by which he can rise above the crowd.
He comes up with an answer. So simple, so splendid. He is inordinately proud of his idea, and wonders if anyone else had discovered it before him. Of course they must have, it is so obvious in retrospect, but try as he might, he can find no evidence to support that his idea for vengeance has ever been attempted.
*See Pathetic Fighters: A Look at the Physical Alterations of Literary Men and Women, 1938-1989, Catherine Kempfield, Oxford, 2007
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The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.