Jenn, the classic

16Oct08

Back in Paris, I was getting it together. My brother-in-law, a Brooklyn-based literary agent, had helped me get a handful of magazine articles published in the states and was shopping the first four chapters of my book on the history of gentrification. He said we should be able to get a decent advance.

Riding the metro, I was sitting next to this put-together American girl. I could tell she was American because she was in deep concentration on an issue of a slightly obscure culture magazine published out of Seattle. Upon closer inspection, I realized she was actually reading an article I had written on Lee “Scratch” Perry. Emboldened, I asked her what she thought of it.

“I think whoever wrote this is a bullshit artist who doesn’t know a damn thing about dub reggae.”

Jenn was an aspiring novelist, originally from British Columbia. She had left Canada because, she thought being a famous writer in Canada was pointless. Like so many before her, she had moved to Paris (on her parent’s dime), to bask in the history, to take lovers and to live the twentieth-century expatriate dream. “I’m not a cliché, Knox. I’m a classic,” she told me.

Jenn was attracted to me for two reasons. First, I was completely lost. Second, I was published. She had the first one down, but couldn’t seem to hack the second, which is something I never understood. She was hands down a better writer. Most of her short stories left me choked with tears and slightly shell shocked for the next day or so. But while success was coming easily to me, she couldn’t even get editors to personalize her rejection letters.

I got my brother-in-law to agree to shop her novel around, even though he found its commercial prospects highly suspect. Still, he found a boutique press in San Francisco that was willing to take a chance on it. I took Jenn out to dinner to tell her the good news and she flipped out.

“I don’t need the overflow of your charmed life, you egotistical bastard.”

Jenn left me for a Muslim poet shortly thereafter. Maybe it was for the best. She eventually found success in advertising and left Paris to the 10,000 other English majors still haunting the banks of the Seine.



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