Called the printer yesterday, and received the welcome news that the book is scheduled for completion this coming Thursday, the 26th, so two thousand copies of The Great American Desert will soon be winging their way here. Okay, not winging. Two thousand copies is over a ton o’ books. I don’t even want to know what the bill from UPS would be, so I’m having them shipped common carrier to a local freight terminal, from whence I will rescue them in my handy little pickup truck. Most of the looseness in the front end is gone since I replaced the damper and track bar the other week, but she still vibrates some at highway speeds.
Some of that vibration is probably the right front wheel bearing, which has a little more play in it than it actually needs. Hardly surprising after 125,000 miles. The left front bearing was replaced long ago.
I was talking with one of my test readers last night about some of the things that got jettisoned from the novel along the way, and one of those things was a long digression about the genesis of Antony’s vintage pickup. There was some stuff I really liked in there, too, starting with a number of passages in which the narrator explores the complex relationship between a man and his truck. Max lost some scenes, and an entire character, a high school friend of Antony’s who pumped gas down at the Sinclair station in Godfrey, got the axe. And there was, if I may say so myself, a very funny exchange between Dan and Vilma that it simply broke my heart to lose. I’m thinking about how I could use all this material in a short story one of these days.
Although it hurt to cut it out, it was probably the right decision. I suspect that most of my potential readership would have found the truck stuff fairly tedious. Then again, I’m reminded of a bumper sticker you occasionally see here in Colorado: “A Girl and her Truck – It’s a Beautiful Thing.”
My reader and I got into this because she mentioned that she’s become tired of 600-page kitchen sink novels, and appreciated the length of my story, which is a little over 81,000 words on 223 pages. I really made an effort to focus on the essential. Maybe I’ll do what the movie people do now, and release a ‘director’s cut’ version of the book. Years ago my mother and I giggled at the untranslated bits all through a subtitled showing of Das Boot. The rest of the audience must have been wondering. Last year I bought the DVD, which is the director’s cut version with no option to view it as released, and it is interminable and dull.
I’ll get the front bearing replaced next year if I’m still solvent by then. Unfortunately, it’s one of those jobs that I can’t do myself without buying yet more machinery, namely a bearing press. I’d love to yank the transmission, too, and have yet another synchro kit installed. Sometimes my baby wants a whole lot of finesse before she’ll slip into first gear after sitting in neutral. She sure embarrassed me downtown one day last summer. Pulling a transmission isn’t the most relaxing way to spend a morning, and then you have to find someone else with a truck willing to take it to the tranny guys, and pick it up again, and help you stuff it back in place. Maybe Hollywood will buy my story, and I’ll let someone else do the whole job. With the time I’ll save, maybe I’ll be able to make it all the way through The Great American Desert: the Director’s Cut.