By Janet Capron
A review of my debut memoir, Blue Money, appeared in the July 14th issue of Shelf Awareness, a well-regarded online newsletter about books and the book industry (shelf-awareness.com).
“Capron writes with the fearless, experiential drive of a Beat poet, though her images are more controlled and precise than the subject matter would suggest. There’s an enormous amount of clarity here.” —Scott Neuffer
Neuffer’s review is brilliant but, weirdly, the possible recognition this review could generate has unsettled me. I’m not sure why. All I know is that I had a similar reaction when I met with my great agent for the first time in her office at Janklow Nesbit (she is also a West Village neighbor, as it happens). Afterward, I walked down Park Avenue, oblivious to the pain in three-inch high-heeled boots, feeling like someone had just slapped me. I was out of it. I marched into The Waldorf Astoria, of all places, and directly over to the old-time Peacock Alley (how like me, to revert to scenes of my childhood and seek out a wonderfully staid and complacent retreat for the well-heeled).
I proceeded to tell the pretty hostess that I had just been signed by one of the best agents at one of the best literary agencies, and that I was trying to get my bearings. She was strangely both sympathetic and congratulatory, as if customers routinely shared their unexpected successes. It probably would have been more appropriate for her to politely distance herself from what was obviously someone in the middle of a psychotic break.
A few months later, my agent sold Blue Money to Unnamed Press, an enterprising young publishing house, which has paved the way for a lot of the positive buzz (the other champion being none other than Westview News).
The point I want to make here is that, after the initial meeting with my agent, I felt anxious and uncomfortable for about a month. The only analogy I’ve been able to come up with is when deep-sea divers are brought up too fast and get the bends. I had been laboring in obscurity for a long time. All of a sudden, my little hidey-hole of cozy obscurity was exposed. The literary agent had told me that she thought Blue Money belonged on the front page of The New York Times “Book Review” and everywhere else. In that moment, I was catapulted out of quiet and familiar despair and stripped of my sackcloth of bitterness—it caught me off guard.
Blue Money launched on June 20th. Since then, great things have happened, including a wonderful article about the book in the July issue of Westview News by Andrew Buemi (“Janet Capron: Uptown Girl Turned Prostitute in Blue Money”). But I’ve been waiting for the first bonafide review of the book (as opposed to an article), because a well-placed review by an established, published writer could possibly mean that the book is on its way to becoming “critically acclaimed.”
Once again, I discover that, when the stakes are high, I am struck with anxiety—not the unalloyed joy you would think I would be experiencing. Here’s what I’ve concluded: Familiar, cozy obscurity becomes the status quo and ensures a strange comfort, as in, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” When a dream starts to come true, adjustments must be made—the blues are no longer prescribed. I dare to enter another realm, another reality, for how long I can’t say. In fact, unlike when I was living in cozy obscurity, I have less control over the outcome than ever before. A fancy problem to be sure!