Monday, May 17, 2010

One Novel, Two First Editions. Different Book. Huh?

First edition, May 2009.

In 2009, writer Marc Schuster had his first novel published. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl, issued by PS Books in Philadelphia, is a horrifying and painfully funny first-person narrative slice of a modern American woman’s life overwhelmed by the siren's song of American consumer culture and its kindly cruel emancipation proclamation that women can have it all.

In 2011, Permanent Press will issue the first edition of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl.

Same novel, same author, same title. Different book.

Excuse me?

The circumstances required a note to the author.

“The way things transpired,” Schuster replied, “was that I had been working pretty closely with a local literary magazine called Philadelphia Stories, so when they started a books division to promote local authors, I was one of the first people in line to submit something...The end result was that PS Books produced a run of [Singular Exploits...] about 500 books [!!]

“...At the same time, I’d been reviewing small press books on my blog, Small Press Reviews...and a number of titles I had reviewed were from Permanent Press, a press that’s been around for about thirty years or so.”

Schuster and Martin Shepard, co-publisher of Permanent Press, began to correspond. Schuster sent Shepard a copy of ...Wonder Mom.

“After he read it,” Schuster continued, “he asked if it was available. Fortunately, my relationship with PS Books was such that they were willing to let me out of my contract fairly amicably, so I was able to give my novel a second life through Permanent Press.

Second life, indeed.

First revised edition, June 2011.

Martin Shepard and his wife and co-publisher, Judith, had a few suggestions for improving the book and asked Schuster to make revisions before officially accepting it for publication. That was in August of 2009.

“Since I’m a teacher and the school year was looming, I did a massive edit in two weeks,” Schuster reports. “Mainly, it involved cutting about 100 pages from the manuscript and reshuffling the narrative so that it went from alternating between events in the past and present to a chronological treatment of the same events. The story and title remain the same, but the telling has changed significantly.”

Opening line to the first first edition:

“Chapter 1. In Which I Get a Little Lift. The skinny blond bitch on the back of the Kashi box thinks she’s better than me.”

Opening lines to the second first edition:

“The package arrived while I was on the phone with Roger. ’Is it a date?’ my ex-husband asked.”

In the first first edition, the “lift” referred to is provided by cocaine.

In the second first edition, the referenced package contains a gift book sent to our recently divorced heroine, Audrey, from her mother. It’s a copy of Singular Pleasures: The Womanly Art of Masturbation.

By either entrance, you’ve stepped onto a roller-coaster of satire and tragedy, middle-class yearning and middle-class angst, the demands of motherhood versus the desires of womanhood, and the consequences when we try to be all things to all people and wind up being nothing to nobody.

Open door number one, and you are thrust into a hard, edgy landscape that may alienate some potential readers, Wonder Mom well into her Party Girl persona, a half-gram of cocaine in her wallet. Open door number two and Wonder Mom greets us as an apple pie on the verge of being sliced up and served on a darkly tarnished silver platter.

The alternative angles of attack can be fairly characterized as assault versus seduction, a slap v. firm caress.

Afterward, what we are left with is a case-study in the novel-writing process, the importance of a publisher/editor who can wisely and gently guide a writer to their manuscript’s best potential, and a novelist not afraid to re-imagine his work to possibly reach a broader readership without sacrificing his key themes, the protagonist’s core character, and the dark awakening from a suburban nightmare that morphs into a malignant waking dream.

One edition of the novel drops us directly into the chaos that has become Wonder Mom’s life, the other follows her toward the looming tumult. Both challenge the reader. I can’t decide which I prefer. You may wish to own both first editions.

One book, two first editions. That would never happen if The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl had been originally published by a large, mainstream publisher. We have here a sterling example of how small press publishing can do something that the majors can no longer do - if they ever could: Give a first-time novelist a chance - and then a second chance with their first novel.

SCHUSTER, Marc. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl. Philadelphia: PS Publishing, 2009. First edition. 293 pp.

SCHUSTER, Marc. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl. Sag Harbor, NY: Permanent Press, 2011. First (revised) edition. 279 pp.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Marc,
    So happy for you!!! A second life for your awesome book - maybe I will be the one directing the movie after I adapt it for the screen!! So amazing that you almost took the Endicott job - it is gorgeous on that campus - some great days of my life and eager students!!
    I leave for Copenhagen May 29th from NJ to speak on Princess Cruise line will be back in NJ on June 15th speaking in Monroe NJ on June 18th Friday evening at 7:30 if you can come I would love it, at a place called Encore - then flying back to LA on June 21
    so glad you liked the interview.


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