It’s been called to my attention that an earlier novel of mine, The Wife, has been included on the Neglected Classics list of the UK newspaper “The Guardian.”  I am trying to decide if I should feel bad about this, or good. (My motto tends to be: When in doubt, choose “bad.”)  But I suppose it’s possible to turn this into something useful; for instance, I could tell people that I was chosen for The Guardian’s  “…Classics” list.  That wouldn’t be lying.  (Of course, I have also thought about thanking The MacArthur Foundation on the acknowledgements page of my next novel.  That wouldn’t lying, either, if I didn’t specify exactly what I was thanking the foundation for.)

I feel sometimes that novels are all Little Engines That Could, or Should Have, or Almost Did, or Didn’t.  Novelists are an increasingly obscure lot, as if we speak in a click-language.  And yet there’s still a whole world of novel readers out there, and once in a while a novel breaks through to another level, which is highly gratifying to the writer.  With The Wife, I didn’t quite break through to that level, but apparently to another level that I hadn’t known existed before: the level of books that mean something to certain people, who perhaps can’t understand why they don’t mean something to more people.

The writers on The Guardian list, if we all got together for a little celebration, would in some cases perhaps circle the room drinking as much free scotch as possible and muttering darkly about our state of neglect; or, in other cases, would bounce from spot to spot, feeling happily classic.   When I imagine myself at that party, I see myself as uncertain of what to do––staying neutrally by the table with the crudités and dip, feeling neither entirely classic nor entirely neglected.

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