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Sub: Application for Clemency August 6, 2009

Posted by fungus in Uncategorized.
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Is it over yet? As in, has all that is to be said and done about this already happened and will every word written and uttered this point forth speak of “this” in the past tense? Or is there more to unfold in this tale of ours? In short, is there hope for us yet? Or are we done? More pointedly, are you done with me so completely that my not being done with you is, now, only of academic interest and that we are, in fact, done? History?

I ask, not from a lover’s point of view but from that of a writer’s – although, I would understand your confusion about the difference. Lovers aren’t allowed the luxury of knowing where their tales are headed. Theirs not to know the verdict on their existence. Theirs, only, to plunge blindly ahead. But, in my secondary role as my own chronicler I need to stay a little ahead of the curve.

As an author I have a responsibility towards my reader. My reader expects a plot, a variation in tempo, a twist in the narrative. Without that twist I am doomed. I am not a Dostoevsky who, with but a single emotion in mind could pen a classic like The Brothers Karamazov. And only too long has my story languished in the doldrums. What it needs is for a chapter to end and another to begin.

What would be best for the story, my readers tell me, is a little song and dance, some flowers and whole-hearted reciprocation of the professions of undying love we have already discussed in previous chapters. A lot of correspondence I receive from my adoring faithful complains of a feeling of being short-changed. Too long, they say, have I subjected them to dry spells of unrequited love on the part of our protagonist. The general trend the last few chapters have established is one of overall ineffectuality on his part. Our hero, it seems, runs a very real risk of being branded a Wuss.

Understandably, that was not the intention we started out with. When we began we had envisioned a Magnum Opus – the story of a Prince among Men, an Influencer of World Events, the Uber-Mensch Nietzsche spoke of. It is safe, now, to divulge that the story was supposed to pick up in his thirtieth year and, thereafter, he would have enjoyed the two most productive decades anyone has seen barring, perhaps, Einstein and da Vinci. We would never, explicitly, have spoken of The End and, after his fiftieth birthday, the narrative would have jumped to the next generation; kind of like how The Phantom is succeeded by The Son of The Phantom but the unsuspecting Public can never tell the difference. Such would have been our hero’s legacy.

In light of such an epic backdrop you can sense the chagrin of our readers seeing how the highlight of the last six years – certainly the entirety of our hero’s productive life – has been pining for a heroine they do not completely fathom. The blame, of course, lies squarely on the shoulders of this chronicler but, as I have pointed out previously, when protagonist and chronicler become one the waters of the narrative tend to muddy rather than clarify. It has been said that our hero seems in love more with a concept rather than an actual person and there is some substance to this charge.

In one of the ancillary volumes – to where we have relegated the less scintillating events of our hero’s biopic – we talked about how the two central characters have met only a handful of times and how most of the jolly back and forth has happened over, either, the telephone or the Internet. What we have neglected to mention, even in the secondary volumes, is how when our hero dreams of our heroine the dreams are, usually, about e-mails from here rather than of her in person. I will go so far as to reveal that he dreads these e-mails fearing that each may be the last.

This is no Internet Romance, however; in so much as it can be called a romance. There is substance to this below the, seemingly, non-descript facade. However, to exhibit the substance explicitly would be to undermine all that has been achieved thus far. The subtlety with which this Romance-of-the-Ages has played out has escaped all but the most discerning of my readership. And, surely, the reward for such insight cannot be for me to flush the subtlety down the proverbial drain.

All are in agreement, though, that our heroine is a keeper. The little we have glimpsed of her has been enough to convince all but the most ardent sceptics that our hero could not have found a worthier foil. There are hints of royalty in her blood – true royalty and not the, merely, titular, aspiring type – but not enough for her to lose the Common Touch. Her eyes, it is fabled, speak of mountain mists and ocean breezes, all at once. The wisps of her hair trail off as, surely, the manes of unicorns must. And to actually hear her speak must feel like being in the presence of God.

To try and answer the question of how our readers, or even our protagonist, know so much about the female lead of the series, who, to the casual reader, seems little more than a spectre till now, would warrant a lengthy foray into the art and science of subtlety, of smoke and mirrors and of Truth and Illusion themselves – an undertaking far too grand for a mere application for clemency, for that is all this humble piece of literature is. I ask you to trust me on this. For now.

And it isn’t only the feedback from the hitherto adoring masses that is giving me cause for concern. Of late the bulk of the communication from my publishers, restrained and deferential as it is, has been strained. And I understand only too well how this situation might be awkward for them.

When my original publishers had signed on to this project they had been assured of a handsome Return on Investment. Our hero had already established his credentials and they were only too certain that an episodic chronicle of his achievements fit all their equations. There was much nodding in agreement when the matter had come up before the Board. The verdict had been unanimous – their fledgling business had found its Cash Cow. A suitable liaison had been appointed and no more thought was given to it. After all, all said and done, over-achievers were a dime a dozen. Every publishing house worth its salt had a few to spare and, now, they had theirs.

It had been an over-zealous proof-reader who had brought it to the notice of his immediate superior who, in turn, informed his boss and so on so that, by a couple of weeks after the fact the entire company knew that the hero of their most successful franchise had found himself a love interest.

Not that that is so remarkable in itself. Why, even our hero, himself, had had a few dozen immediately preceding this. But this one read differently. It might be of interest to note, at this point, that the afore-mentioned proof-reader has, since, launched his own publishing house, outdoing his previous employers by several orders of magnitude. I only mention this now because this publishing mogul is soon to become a Person-of-Interest within this sequence of events.

Meanwhile, the original liaison was replaced by an Interface Team whose responsibilities now included monitoring the story, the subscription rates, reader feedback, market research designed to offer the biographer suggestions for developing the plot and, also, overseeing the dental and medical plans for the protagonist and maintaining his general well-being. They reasoned that, while they had a good things going, a solid romance could push the story into the realms of greatness. The proof-reader, the one I had mentioned earlier, quit to start his own publishing enterprise and brought in a team of Private Equity experts who, using complex methods of Debt-Restructuring, Balance Sheet Expression and Reverse Acquisitions, bought all the rights to The Franchise. The Interface Team came included.

Mr. Ex-Proof-Reader knew that he had gambled big on this one piece of Human Interest. He implemented measures that would help him monitor and protect his investment. Assessment Banks were set up to do real-time monitoring of the readership and public sentiment regarding our protagonist and his story. The leading lights in Public Psychology and Public Relations were employed to, respectively, figure out what sequence of events would best excite the masses and how these could be packaged. A discreet security detail was provided to the hero, without his knowledge or consent, and attractive and interesting women were discouraged from befriending our protagonist too much lest his attention wander.

Over time, these measures proved remarkably successful. Far from waning, public interest in The Story continued to grow. Marginal media like Twitter and Facebook came into the fore riding on the back of the largest ground swell of public sentiment since they discovered that the moon landing had been faked. This added to the sense of confidence of our young entrepreneur and, like all young, foolish men, he gambled bigger. Pledges were made, contracts signed and undertakings undertaken. Deals with the Devil, and other publishing houses, were made. Where it stands today is that, depending on where the main story goes from here, the publishing house of interest to us could, either, grow to become a juggernaut the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Department of Justice took such a dislike to monopolies or could crumble leaving a trail of destruction among Media, Investment Banks and Governments the likes of which we haven’t seen since, well, October 2008.

Our hero, meanwhile, continues to live an exemplary life. He is on the cusp of setting up a Food and Beverages empire. In the interim, he moonlights at a weekend job where, by all measures, he is a resounding success. My publishers, nonetheless, have cause for concern. The narrative, while nowhere near being a disaster, runs the real risk of being a has-been. Unless something momentous happens within it the public will just move on, not realizing the destruction their short attention spans could cause. They would find another fad to hang their eyelids on for the briefest moment. The next Facebook. Or Twitter. Or, gasp, even some MBA who fancies himself the next Cervantes.

And then there are the readers. What of them, you ask. Well, consider how most of them have grown up rooting for this Hercules of today. Imagine what learning you and I would have derived had the Aegean Stables flummoxed our hero in that tale. And then there is the entire class of people who have lived off the glory reflected off our protagonist. Their lives, should our hero fail in his endeavours, would collapse like Lehman Brothers.

Note how I ask you to spare no thought for the protagonist himself. He has no say in any of this. I hope I have resolved your confusion regarding the duality of my roles and you have seen how steadfastly objective I have been in keeping my roles insulated from each other.

Let’s take a minute to do a quick recap. At this point, what hangs in the balance are the careers and lives of thousands, if not millions, involved in the publishing industry and all associated fields like Finance and Media who have helped prop it up, the lives of the millions who depend on those already mentioned for food and sustenance, the billions of readers who hang by every turn of phrase our hero employs and the protagonist himself. No, scratch the protagonist.

I am sure the quandary is great and weighs heavily on your shoulders. But, being so closely associated with our protagonist has taught me two things. First, I never present problems I do not have solutions to. Secondly, I care deeply for your well-being. Keeping both these considerations in mind, I am happy to announce that I have a ready solution for this predicament.

I propose a December wedding – the kinds with lots of flowers but little pomp and show. A small, private affair with only the most close-knit in attendance. A honeymoon in New Zealand and an indefinitely long happily ever after.
The readers will never see it coming. Neither will Mr. Ex-Proof-Reader. And what little stock I hold in his company will soar through the roof and then some. What say?