Brave New Lit
by Mickey J. Corrigan
I’m down to my last few chits, and my tab at the local pub is getting ugly. Fortunately, I got a call today. TGFW: Thank God For Work. That said, one has to have a stiff backbone to deal with the clients I get. They’re not easy, and their individual demands can prove challenging. Because my clients are orchids in need of a dandelion.
Let me explain.
My new client, let’s call her “Twinkle,” is an ultra-sensitive person who is easily triggered. An English literature major at an Ivy League school, she has been falling behind in her work because her reading assignments often cause her great emotional pain. Or so her mother explains.
This is a typical description of an orchid.
When I tell her mother the ballpark fee to help Twinkle get through the semester, she says money is not an issue. It’s a major issue for me, so I sign on to rewrite all the potentially offensive books on Twinkle’s reading list. That way, she can get her work done, graduate, and teach others their own personally modified classics.
See, I’m just the person to help orchids like Twinkle achieve their goals. My name is Daisy, but I am more like a dandelion because I spring up in sidewalk cracks and thrive as long as I receive showers at regular intervals. Showers of good beer and decent cabernet.
The first assignment on Twinkle’s reading list is The Great Gatsby, one of my favorite novels. And a short one, which means I can personalize it for Twinkle over the weekend.
On Friday, I text Twinkle to ask if stories of poor people who bootstrap bother her. She says yes. I ask her if stories about men who are heartbroken after losing the woman they love upset her. She says not if the woman ends up with a guy who’s better, like richer. I ask her if murder or vehicular homicide are an issue and she says it depends on who gets killed. “Is it the poor guy,” she asks, “or the rich one?”
I understand this orchid. I attended boarding school with flowers of this same rarified variety. So I get to work.
Literary censoring is the perfect career for me. Writing novels pays zilch, the creative arts are now widely regarded as an impractical joke. One must be a math and coding genius to find employment that is not of the service variety. I do what I can with my language skills to tailor-make novels, memoirs and some nonfiction to a reader’s specific needs.
Repression in the name of tolerance, some say. I say no, think of it as a way for writers to survive. Or at least to earn drinking money.
I’ve revamped homoerotic Greek poetry into the kind of Hallmark soapsuds one could read at a Christian wedding reception over pure white virginal cake made by homophobic bakers. I’ve adjusted hetero romance novels so that both hero and heroine are same gender or gender neutral. To Kill a Mockingbird need not be about rape, race, or mental illness when it can be told as a children’s story. I’ve certainly reworked it that way. Twain doesn’t need to use the n-word, and Kipling can set his jungle stories in merry old England, where he won’t offend with cultural appropriations.
Orchids like Twinkle need not suffer needlessly. Not when there are thousands of out-of-work writers looking for ways to make ends meet.
My weekend unfurls in a haze of cut and paste. I occasionally text my client. Does adultery depress your mood? Do fraud and false identity make you anxious? As I work, I become the narrator Nick Carraway, a sensitive sort himself, telling a different story about West Egg and East Egg, Long Island and Manhattan. A rather upbeat story about a man and his wife and a deep love that endures in their beautiful mansion on the Sound.
When I get done with his novel about class differences, social upheaval, decadence and excess, I swear, F. Scott wouldn’t recognize it. No matter. In my rendition, the love interest is faithful to her rich husband and old sport Gatsby gets what he deserves: a C-suite position in their successful company. The green light still flashes at the end, but no readers will weep. In fact, Twinkle should smile peacefully upon finishing my skinned rendition of this great American classic. Life is good, or at least it’s the way she likes it.
Late on Sunday night, I save the final document before tumbling into bed. In the morning, I will ship it to the packager for cover design. I’ve selected the 1936 Italian edition cover because it’s pretty, and the creepy billboard eyes are absent.
F. Scott was disappointed in the book’s lack of success. The story was underappreciated at first and went out of print. He earned hardly enough drinking money for his needs. Old sport Daisy here will make more bucks by spending the weekend personal-censoring the novel than the novelist made from creating it.
Too bad for him. The story had good bones.
Copyright © 2019 by Mickey J. Corrigan