Perhaps it’s time to recap the improbable journey taken by Sam Lipsyte’s book from unpublished manuscript all the way to the Tournament of Books final. For those who don’t know the now familiar story, Home Land was rejected by publishers 11,417 times. It was rejected by all the major publishers, then all the small houses, the university presses, HR newsletters, skateboard zines, and Pennysaver classifieds. At one point a Ritalin addict working the night shift at the Court Street Kinko’s even refused to make a copy of it. Finally, a desperate Lipsyte hired Lithuanian monks who could not read even a word of English to transcribe the manuscript by hand and then, after a week of collating and stapling, he smuggled eight boxes of them to England in a shipping container with three dozen Russian prostitutes, who were very grateful just to have someplace to sit.
When it finally found an American publisher, Home Land was released as a PBO, or paperback original, a format which, until very recently, was considered by many to be the publishing equivalent of a humorous Dorf on Golf instructional video.
I say until very recently because I think Home Land is one of the books helping to change that.
John, I remember last year when you and I were both reading it and we were calling each other back and forth just to say, Damn, this shit is funny. And that’s saying something because, like all individuals who occasionally attempt to write humor, we rarely admit that anything written by anyone else has made us laugh, much less figuratively pee our metaphorical pants.
WARNER: Amen to that, my friend. When I read a funny book that I haven’t written, I literally go through the five stages of grief:
1. Denial: This book actually sucks, right? I’m laughing because I’m just sleep deprived, or there’s a leak at the nitrous plant.
2. Anger: Holy fucking Christ! This book is funny. Damn it!
3. Bargaining: My book is as funny as this book, isn’t it? I mean, I could’ve written this book, if I’d wanted to, couldn’t I?
4. Depression: Who am I kidding? I’ll never write a book this good.
Actually, come to think of it, I generally just stop and stick at depression. This is why I’m so fond of the Tournament of Books. Sure, there’s going to be a winner at the end of all of this and that winner is going to be the proud recipient of a live cock, but there’s also going to be 15 losers. And thanks to your Zombie Round, two writers are going to get bounced twice, with the lurching, slobbering, brain-eating version of On Beauty meeting its second final demise thanks to the judgment of young Mr. Womack here.
All of this is to say that I feel a little bit better knowing that at least my book was not not chosen as the best book of 2005 twice.