Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Agency Day

This is the 26th anniversary of the foundation of the George Edwards Agency, that august body of spiritual and literary brilliance, unsurpassed in the history of civilization, that oversees the employment of my talents. The 12th of August. In the family calendar it is a very big day, possibly the biggest after the feast of Ignatius, simply because of the way the Agency focuses the spiritual energies and capacities of the Seventh Mansion, ensuring that the supreme achievement of spiritual grace and glory is not squandered in any places that Christ and His Blessed Mother appear to deem wasteful and unworthy. The mere human vessel that carries so much grace is not always competent to discern merely on his own account where his efforts are best spent. Mankind is always in need, so the generous soul is vulnerable to misapplying good works, even unto the highest levels. One of the Agency's prime tasks, not always easy to accept immediately, is to have no truck whatever with a step taken in the wrong direction. Even popes have been known to have been set aside, and bishops, priests, and all sorts of otherwise worthy dignitaries get left in the dark before they even know they're in it.
Thus is the responsibility of the contemplative. Prayer comes first, or else.
It was in 78 or 79 that I first began looking for agents. I sensed that I was getting close to the 'final text' of the novel, and decided that it would be useful to this or that soul to try to function as an agent. Good for whomever I was trying to set up at the time, and good for the Nelson and the Kootenays, clearly by that time committed to establishing professional culture in its own right on its own turf. What could be a greater credit to a young cultural centre than the first novel in history to be allowed to deal with such an exalted subject?
The first contacts were interesting, but did not come to anything conclusive. Then, in December of 81, with the story unfolding at an alarming rate for a few weeks, I lost my nerve dealing with a local publisher. This had never happened to me before, outside the baleful glare of my incredibly well-read wife, my editor of editors, and to my rescue immediately came Jill Cormie, for ever afterward known as the senior agent. She had a great love for good novels, as well as a full understanding of the Carmelites, and a profound distaste for seeing me disconcerted among those who in the world, either as members of State or Church, pass for authorities and people of influence. She was a graduate of the tumultous days of the house on Elwyn Street, and a convert to the Faith. Her literary specialties included the Life of Teresa of Avila and The Lord of the Rings. She was very good at spanking her children and thus was well-trained for dealing with the general run of modern editors and publishers. She dealt with the local publishing hopeful who had disturbed my confidence.
But the agency itself was not yet formed, and I had one more play to do, Agatha Christie's 'Mousetrap'. This was the production that was to recreate the Nelson Little Theatre and thus install the third local drama group that was necessary for Nelson to qualify for the government money that would fuel the restoration of the Capitol and thus provide the community with the rather enviable live entertainment facility where my granddaughters annually strut their dance skills. We staged the play, I had my hernia operated upon, 'Chariots of Fire' came to town, I took up running, got in touch with an old UBC friend who for a time looked hopeful as a publisher, had that collapse, had myself collapse, and then MT became junior agent - and major mover of the outfit, having to deal on a daily basis with Moi - by simply asking for the job and then promptly going to the Nelson library and taking out Bennett Cerf's autobiography. Not that Random House was to prove of any use. As with all publishers of our acquaintance so far, including the people in Rome, they were incapable of theological dialogue at the most significant level. It's not easy being right.
And now publishers generally seem to be in a little trouble. Blogger.com is the new kid in the literary saddle, and we realize, the agency and I, that this is a very good thing. Nobody is faster than the Web, nobody is more democratic, except in those parts of the world where the average Joe and Jill don't have computers, and then publishers could be of help. It's a brand new vocation for the presses of London, New York, Toronto and so on, being actually useful to the Third World instead of just talking about it.
How long will it take for them to realize it?

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