This has been a roller coaster of a week!
Last Friday I renewed my lease for a year. I went to the management office, then returned to work, where I received a phone call as described here. Well, they made the offer, and the salary is substantially more than I even hoped for and would be enough to maintain my current quality of life in large eastern city. In fact, if you compare my salary in September of last year with what I would be making in September of this year, you will see that I have doubled my income. Who does that? Amazing!
Except, there is that lease. So, now I'm waiting to hear from the management company about getting out of the lease. Otherwise, they will make me pay rent until the lease is up or I find someone to sublet. I'll probably have to do the latter.
I also dread telling my boss, the Big Pisser, because he has abandonment issues. (What is with these old, white-dude, academics and their fear of being left behind on something?) He has such abandonment issues that he now refuses to give credit to my predecessor on the three volumes that my predecessor worked for the past several years. Instead, he's giving me credit for the work that the other guy did, just for revenge.
This really bothers me. I'm pissed for the other guy, because he did all of this very detailed work for which he will not be getting even an acknowledgement. It also scares me because I'm being given credit for work that I did not do, opening me up for charges of fraud or plagiarism. Even if that is not the legal case, I feel as if it is the ethical case. The Big Pisser will also not give the other guy any recommendation despite the other guy having worked here for twenty years. Heck this Big Pisser still openly and viciously criticizes a job candidate for turning down the opportunity to work here. So, merely leaving is a burned bridge, and I hate burned bridges.
But that's not really what is on my mind. I'm writing about that -- a good thing that I am polluting with negative contingencies -- to avoid writing about what has me infuriated and has almost spoiled my joy at the job offer. That, of course, is related to this Local History Book that has become the bane of my existence.
As I wrote in the footnote to my last post, the press had sent my manuscript to this Nemesis without my consent and after I suggested another, more neutral reader. Understand, this is an author mill that has aspirations for being a scholarly press. Yet, they have not built in a referee or vetting process into their operation, nor do they actually edit anything, nor have they read my manuscript. Indeed, I did a Google search on the "editor" assigned to my book, and her background seems to be in interior design.
My book was offered up to this Nemesis by the editor as a means of schmoozing him to get him to support the book, which he is never going to do as I have seen him in action on this matter with other authors who have tried to write about the town. The editor offered up my book to him, and when I objected to him specifically because of my prior contact with him, and gave her another person to contact if they must do this, the editor agreed to use the other person.
Then, she called me this week to tell me that they had sent it to him and she had no memory of our exchange on the matter of him, told me that they would not publish the book without "his blessing," and then proceeded to tell me some of his objections, such as the "genocide" issue of my last post. They want him to "fact-check" the book, and will pay him for it. I agreed on the stipulation that I could reject any of his changes.
Today, I received an e-mail from her. Her message contained the text of his e-mail wherein he drew the connection between me living there for "one or two years" and his lifetime of work on the subject, wrote that "this was not the book that I would have written." Then, he requested a sum of $1600 "for his life time of knowledge" to read my manuscript. Guess who they want to pay half?
Now, I really don't mind input on my work. Suggestions for improvement are welcome. I do mind how this publisher keeps changing the rules. When I first asked about outside readers, they told me that they trust the expertise of their authors. Now they have brought him in, mainly for commercial purposes (and yes, I totally get that, but still), and have employed him as a "reader." They told me that he would not determine if the book was published or not, yet now they say that they will not publish it without his approval. The idea of employing him was theirs, yet they want me to pay for him.
So, I responded. "I myself, in good conscience, cannot agree to this. I consented, against my own judgment and at your instigation, to allow him to do what other publishers consider "referee" or "vet." Other publishers engage these outside readers, who remain anonymous, and include the readers' fees in their budgets, all in order to ensure an ethical process and produce a scholarly volume free from personal prejudices or charges of bribery. If I pay any amount to have him read this work, I feel as if I am engaging in vanity publication, thereby compromising the integrity of my work." Too bitchy? It's all true. Eventually, I hope to write a sane and rational post on the comparison between real, academic publishers, and these kinds of operations that feed off of the vanity of the poor schmucks like myself who need some outside validation of self, like a book.
I haven't heard back. I sense that this may be the end of the contract and that the Nemesis will be publishing a survey history of the town through this publisher within the next year or two. That somehow strikes me as off, but I can't say how.
In my fury, however, I had a revelation. I keep saying that this book has more psychological importance for me than anything else. Lord knows that may be the only importance that it has! Whatever the case, I have kept up this magical thinking that, once it is done, I will have had something positive to show for my hideous time at that place and I can move on.
Yet, every time I have to deal with this publisher, I have to relive the shame of having gotten myself involved with this joke of an outfit, and I go right back to the miserable situation that led me to make that choice. I experience the anger and the frustration and the hatred for what I experienced every time they make me cut the manuscript, every time their e-mails drop a fresh hell into my inbox, every time they lose something or forget something or bungle something else. The manuscript ties me to that place and ties me to that period of time. This is not healthy for me.
I need to release it.
Over a year ago, when the big, redheaded Amazon threatened to kick my ass over her boyfriend, I realized that I had to leave the place because it was a tiny little pond full of big fish, flopping all over and devouring one another. "This is so silly and petty," I thought. "Don't they know that this doesn't matter? That this place is nothing in the grand scheme of things? That this is a backwater and there are other places in the world?" My brain, my career, and my life suffocated in that tiny, closed environment. How could it not?
Now that I live elsewhere, a small fish in a bigger pond, and moving into even bigger ponds, I realize that every time I allow this book deal to pull me back into that anger and fury, allow it to be important, allow those people -- that Nemesis -- to tie me emotionally and destructively to that place, I legitimize that tiny, narrow-minded way of thinking. I become part of it and perpetuate it. I don't want to grant them any more power over me in any way. The book had become the magic talisman that would accomplish the break, but the book has only strengthened the tie.
So now, maybe the book won't happen -- and I will be upset, because it was my work. Better than the book, however, will be to just leave it all behind me and live the life I want. I have the means, and it doesn't have shit to do with the book.
I left there because I was better than them, and better than that place.
I still am.
*Apologies to GayProf for stealing his theme! (I'm totally crushing on GayProf. ** Go read his blog, Center of Gravitas!)
**Don't be jealous of GayProf, I crush on all of the blogs that I read! That's why I read them.