Is it Final, or Does it Just Appear That Way?

Now and then a well-meaning, experienced publishing-type person has asked me, apropos of  The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door, ‘Are you wed to the title?’ Or something approximating the same sentiment. (Which seemed to indicate the sentiment that a), It’s so long; or perhaps, b) I don’t get it.)

To which my response has been, Yes. Totally. (With the unstated ‘Can we not talk about this any more?’ implicit in it.)

Yes, it is a long title. But it is the title. It is the only title that would do the novel justice. I tend to refer to it in casual speech as ‘Final Appearance,’ which is more convenient for someone like me who likes to talk at great lengths. Appearance and finality are two huge parts of the novel. I hope the thinking reader will come away from the novel wondering what the final appearance actually is, or if it is any one thing at all. At least in terms of this story, appearance means a whole slew of things — plain old looks, an ‘appearance’ on a tv show, a false front — you (I hope, as a thinking reader) get the point.

As to finality, it seems to me that there is nothing in the story that’s really final, which is to me one of its more interesting aspects. In many respects, it’s a novel about do-overs. Actual and virtual do-overs. So finality is as ephemeral as appearance.

This also goes right to why I felt like this would be an ideal ebook. There’s so much of culture that’s throwaway. Like the newspapers that arrive on my front porch every morning, and then go into the recycling bin when they’ve aged sufficiently. I like my morning paper. But with a few exceptions, it’s entirely ephemeral, with a few exceptions. Weirdly, as ephemeral as an electronic file containing the text of my novel may be, it’s also in certain ways a more permanent thing, as well.

In the olden days of 12-inch vinyl records and cassette decks, one of the first things I used to do when I bought a new album was record it onto a cassette. That way, I could play it in the car, but I could also (and make of this what you will in your own pop psych way) I could then file away the vinyl and more or less preserve it, but also when I listened to it on the cassette, I could listen to it front to back, not having to flip the disc itself, much the way I would later listen to CDs. Or now, the way I listen to play lists.

These days, one of the first things I do with important stuff, is digitize it, then keep it in the cloud. Mine is far from a paperless life, but when I need to find something, when something is important enough that I want to be able to put my virtual hands on it regardless of device, into the cloud it goes. It seems counterintuitive, but the virtualness of it also makes it somehow more permanent. I can make it appear wherever I like.

But there are other reasons for doing the novel as an ebook, published directly. But that’s fodder for another post.

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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

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