my review of Lincoln in the Bardo.

Category: Blog

Letter from a literary agent to George Saunders after receiving ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ via the agency’s unsolicited manuscripts webpage for use by unpublished writers.

Dear Mr Saunders,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. I read submission with interest but I have to ask; did you send us the wrong attachment with your email, because we received a quantity of research clippings, some random jottings and several unconnected, incomplete excerpts from a stage play. The prose elements that you submitted do however show promise and we would be happy to take a further look at your work if send us a finished version. I should point out that we are not theatrical agents and therefore if the finished version of your work is indeed a stage play, I suggest that you consult the current Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook to find more suitable representation.
One further point concerning the subject matter of your work, Mr Lincoln is a fascinating and multi-faceted character offering great scope to capture the reader’s attention and therefore to concentrate on such a tightly constricted theme may limit your books appeal, the death of a child is, after all something none of us wish to experience, not even through literature.
Therefore, we are sorry to tell you that this is not something that we could represent. We hope that you find suitable representation soon, and wish you good luck with your future writing.
Yours sincerely,
A.N. Agent.

Or a letter from publisher to established author George Saunders.

Hi George,
Got the manuscript this morning, I had a quick skim through and this is what I suggest. Why don’t we just bung it all together, do some fancy artwork for the cover and lots of marketing. We’ll tell everyone it’s an experimental masterpiece, get our friends to give it ecstatic reviews and shower it with awards.
Then ‘emperor’s new clothes’ and all that, because we’ve shouted loud enough, everyone will be afraid to disagree.
(In truth everyone will be unable to disagree, it’s very difficult to take a stand about a book that you haven’t read and I predict very few people will ever make it too the end.)
Everyone’s a winner.