Navigate to Belief section

Excuses, Excuses

I turned in my book’s manuscript almost a month ago, but my editor doesn’t seem to have read it yet. It makes a writer wonder what he’s doing instead.

Shalom Auslander
January 06, 2011
(Jonathon Rosen)
(Jonathon Rosen)

Day 27, 7 a.m.
My editor wakes up and has much to do before the day begins, none of which includes reading the manuscript I sent him almost a month ago. He is very busy! He dresses in his nicest suit and tie; today he has a lunch with a writer who isn’t me, and there is a lot of “interest,” as they say in the business, about his 700-page pile of predictable non-threatening drivel. My editor kisses his wife and son goodbye, feeds the cat, doesn’t read my manuscript, and heads out to work.

Have a good day! his wife calls.

I will! he replies.

Perhaps my manuscript is in his bag, beside his Blackberry and his iPad and his MacBook and his iPhone and his Kindle, or perhaps he forgot it at home since it doesn’t have a touch-screen or titanium cover, or perhaps he cut it up and used it as kitty litter, or perhaps he never brought it home in the first place. He has so very much to do! He needs even more assistants! He hurries to the subway, but stops first at the coffee shop, where he chats with the semi-attractive girl behind the counter and reads the New York Times instead of my manuscript while enjoying a Morning Glory muffin. It’s gluten-free! What a cool place Brooklyn is!

8:30 a.m.
Rush, rush, rush, what a hectic life my editor leads! The train is filled with other busy cool white people from Brooklyn. What skinny pants they all have on! What blasé countenances they all wear! What obscure books they all carry, none of which are mine because my editor is so very busy! He could read some of my manuscript now, of course, but the train ride into Manhattan isn’t very long, and he doesn’t want to take away from important Pretending-To-Check-Email-While-Ogling-Strange-Women time. There’s no cell service in the subway, silly!

Still, the girl in the red hat is pretty cute. Maybe at the next stop he can rub up against her? You’re right, editor—I bet she does want it! Either way, this is no time to be reading some goddamned manuscript. Best to wait until later when you can concentrate. Reading is hard!

9:30 a.m.
At last my editor settles down in his office, puts his feet up on his desk, and doesn’t read my manuscript. What did Arianna Huffington have to say today? Oh boy, I bet it was confrontational and opinionated! Perhaps Arianna has a manuscript my editor could read before mine? Something about blogging or populism or how to fix the whatever it is she thinks is broken? Michael Moore is sure giving the president the business this morning. Is Michael still cool? Is he over? Should my editor buy more graphic novels? What’s up with manga? What does Bookslut think? What does the Times publishing blog say? Phew. What a busy, busy day.

Uh-oh, says his assistant, knocking on his office door—meeting in someone’s office about Something! Will my editor never get a chance to read my manuscript? Is it an emergency meeting, he wonders? Is something going on in the publishing world? Is it over? Is publishing dead? Have they run out of trees? Oh Dear God, is it the iPad? Is it selling? Has it saved us yet? Has it killed us yet? No, no, no; they just need to discuss the final typeface for a book that isn’t mine. Should it be the same typeface as we use for every other goddamned book? Yes? No? Oh, what a day this is turning out to be! Whoops, time for lunch with another author. What a fast-paced business publishing is. If you blink once, you’ll miss one entire blink’s worth of time.

1:00 p.m.

I could do red.

I’m OK with white.

Red’s good.


Yeah, let’s do that.

Should we get a bottle?

I don’t know.

How much are you going to drink?

Let’s just get a bottle.




What are you getting for an entree?

I was thinking of the veal.


2:30 p.m.
Wow—by the time he gets back to the office my editor is pretty shit-faced. Still, there is a lot to do beside reading manuscripts; the publishing business has gotten so very complicated these days, what with book videos and, you know, book videos.

Make that scene longer! he says. Make that scene shorter!

He’s a director!

3:30 p.m.
The day is almost over now, so my editor closes his office door, grabs my manuscript, puts his feet up on his desk, and stares out the window.

Maybe I really could be a director? he thinks. What would that be like? I bet it would be great! Or an agent. I could be an agent.

Ninety minutes later his assistant knocks on the door. He is going to be late for his dinner with another author who isn’t me. If he were an agent, he could have dinners all day long!

He stands, sighs, and tosses my manuscript into his drawer.

It’s terrible what’s happened to publishing lately; there’s hardly any time to read at all.

5:30 p.m.


Pardon me, Miss. I’ll have a martini.

I’ll have one, too.

Well, which is it, Mr. Author, are you going to have one or two? Ha ha. Are there any dinner specials?


Shalom Auslander is the author of Foreskin’s Lament and the novel Hope: A Tragedy. He is also a frequent contributor to This American Life.

Shalom Auslander is the author of Foreskin’s Lament, Hope: A Tragedy, and most recently Mother for Dinner. His new memoir, Fehwill be published this July. He writes The Fetal Position on Substack, so make that seven Nazis.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.