One of the toughest things that people ask me on a regular basis is what The Great American Desert is about. It’s a rather densely-packed ball of wax, so actually there are lots of answers I could give, none of which unfortunately are especially concise. This is one of the reasons why I ask my readers to tell me what it’s about. Surely, I’ve thought, one of them will be able to sum it up in some pithy and useful fashion.
Another tough job, or at any rate a distracting one, is that of selling the thing, especially now that I’m trying to focus on the next novel, so I’ve decided to start sending it out to some literary agents. Which means that I’ve had to address the first problem again: figuring out how to sum up over eighty thousand words in such a way that I can fit the essence of the story into a query letter. I intended to get this done last week, but somehow didn’t manage to settle down to the dreary task until Saturday, when I eventually managed to grind out what I hope is an acceptable query as well as a one-page synopsis. Dreary and painful, too. The exercise reminded me of the postscript that Aldous Huxley once tacked onto a long letter he’d written. In it, he apologizes for having written such a long letter, excusing himself by explaining that he simply didn’t have time to write a short one.
So it took me a long time, but along the way a very useful thing happened; I realized that I could sum up the book, in a pinch, in only two words: Sleeping Beauty.