Hard Times 2020: The Apocalypse is Nigh
Dear Ambitious Writer,
Thank you so much for sharing your reimagining of Charles Dicken’s literary classic with your aptly-named novel, Hard Times 2020: The Apocalypse is Nigh. Unfortunately, I will be passing on the opportunity to represent you. While there was much to admire in your prose, ultimately, I found myself unable to connect with your story. To start, the premise felt a bit overloaded: pandemics, riots, protests, and a president unwilling to concede the loss of a second term. It’s a bit much. Any one of these ideas—perhaps two, I will go so far as to say possibly three—would serve as riveting content. However, with all of these, not to mention the season of fire, it felt like you had lost the ability to make a narrative decision in relation to this novel’s point and purpose. Your deus ex machina, in particular, where your president both incited a riot while denying he incited a riot felt more akin to the conclusion of a Hollywood blockbuster than the literary novel you’ve aspired to present.
Touching on this lack of purpose is your purported genre. While you claim the novel is literary, aspects of the story felt satirical while others could be classified as suspense, social commentary, existentialist, apocryphal and absurdist—all of which undermine the thread of political intrigue that is supposed to pull those pieces together. I will admit that the decision to have your president actually infected by the very virus he claimed was not dangerous was satisfying—if a bit on the nose. However, his denial of the virus’s danger after his illness passed lacked verisimilitude. Ultimately, while you have indeed presented a book that touches on ideas related to A Confederacy of Dunces, 1984, Waiting for Godot, and Native Son, the problem is that these are not stories (or genres) that pair well. Simplification is key, and this all ties back to the message you wish to send to your readers.
Right now, you have none. There is no clear winner or loser. Conspiracy theorists, greedy politicians in denial, and politically-biased reporters all muddle the text. If you do decide to revise, I highly recommend that you think hard about the story’s point as it currently doesn’t seem to have one beyond the fomentation of chaos. That said, agenting is a subjective business, as you well know. Another agent might be delighted by the convoluted and confusing tale you’ve achieved.
But I sincerely doubt it.
Author's Note: This is a fictitious rejection for a fictitious book. Nobody would want to read that!
Image: "Post-wildfire scene"by Joshua Tree National Park is marked with CC PDM 1.0