In his latest collection, The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem recalls the fate of the story he hoped would allow him to break into print. It was in early nineties; he was working as the fiction clerk at Moe’s Books in Berkeley.
He submitted it first to then-great hero-editor Gordon Lish, who exuberantly turned it down.
Then he sent it to me.
And I “teasingly” put him through a couple of rounds of rewriting before rejection.
Ultimately, the story won a prize, etc.
For the record, I wish to state that there was nothing “teasing” in my collaboration with Lethem.
I had been looking for something genre (science fiction) because I thought there might be a new Neuromancer out there.
So I was prepared for Lethem’s arrival. I hoped he could work his little story up some more. In fact, over the years, he has rewritten it several times.
But I wasn’t “teasing.” I simply made the terrible mistake of keeping the bar too high.
I should have taken a deep breath, bought the story, and discovered Jonathan Lethem.