Archives for the month of: March, 2015

It took them long enough – I submitted on 1 August 2014 and didn’t get any response until 25 March 2015, which is almost eight months – but PMLA finally made a decision on my submission, “Arthur Hailey as Richard Nixon. Workplace Safety in Airport.”

They said no, but their reader reports were, by leaps and bounds, better than any reports I’ve ever received. The “reject” reports said nicer things than the reports I’ve had that say “publish.” It’s certainly the first time I felt better after reading the reasons for rejection.

On the one hand, that feeling comes from the praise they embed in the rejection (more on that soon enough). But what really makes the reader reports good is that it’s clear they read my shit carefully and then wrote a clear and considered set of critiques.

First of all, there’s nothing worth quoting out of the positive, “publish” response. It makes a few suggestions about re-organization and further contextualization (which I did before I sent a revised version to another journal). When you can just pass over the report that thinks you’re just fine in favour of the reports that aren’t convinced of your overall greatness, you know you’re onto something.

From the negative pile, there’s the nice bit, “The section on the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization is especially well developed and includes some useful sources. Finally, I think the writer does well to reflect on Hailey’s status as a best-selling, mass-market author and the place of his works in popular literature.” That’s a decent enough series of attaboys.

But the tie-breaking reader has some real gems that made me feel like I got rejected for good reasons: “This is a brisk, intelligent essay, and it has at its heart some very important “crux” issues….I learned a lot from this essay, and I came away pretty convinced on the third front — that there was a certain kind of ideological alignment or compatibility between Hailey and, if not Nixon (too large a figure to encapsulate this specific a commitment), at least a “Nixonian” approach to labor and, perhaps, workplace safety. The essay does a fine job reading the representations of labor, managerial stress, and well-being in Hailey’s fiction, and its political context is important and nicely sketched.” At this point in my first reading of the report, I double-checked that it indeed said, “reject.” But it did.

I particularly like the way in which my admittedly thin contextualization of the PATCO stuff gives the reviewer pause:

I think the economic and political historicizing of this essay is still a bit thin as well, in that the author works too much from inside-out: from PATCO to the debates over air traffic control and workplace safety, but without any broad scale contextualization of where capitalism or federalism are in the moment he or she is describing. Don’t get me wrong: the author has persuaded me the argument could be made. But to make a more convincing case about “hegemonic” thinking in the polity as a whole, one just would need a fuller sense of the moment, politically and ideologically

When I got to the “don’t get me wrong” part, I almost died of pleasure. I’d like to think it’s the briskness of my prose that carried this reader along, convincing her/him that I was on the right track. Maybe it was even the force of my rhetoric, limited as it was by my thin contextualization. But it’s plain that the reader liked but didn’t love the submission. For once I wish the readers weren’t anonymous so that I could thank them. I even like that it was just a rejection, and not a ticket for the revise-and-resubmit treadmill. I can’t name them, but at the very least these anonymous readers must be encouraged.

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Rewatching Dirty Dancing for the book project – I’m going to pair it with The Flamingo Kid (with some other 80s nostalgia-comedies like Heaven Help Us) – I was struck by two curious moments.

The first is the opening of the film, which uses the Ronettes’ song “Be My Baby”. It’s a little embarrassing to put a character’s name so far up front so early and in so ham-handed a manner, but there’s something else. Another movie got there first, and it’s a really good movie: Mean Streets.

I must have been in an Italian-American filmmaker state of mind from the use of “Be My Baby”, because a scene at the end of Dirty Dancing seemed to quote from The Godfather Part II in such a way that I want to propose an alternate ending to the film. Jake Housman sits in the gazebo, looking out over the lake, crushed about the whole sex and abortion and dancing and class mixing that his daughter’s gotten involved in.

Dirty Dancing Michael Corleone

It may be that I’ve seen The Godfather Part II so many times that I always have it in the back of my mind and the corner of my eye, but that image reminded me quite a bit of the image of Michael after he has Fredo killed:

Godfather II Michael 2

When I went back to look for this shot, I realised that I’d combined it mentally with a shot from the outside of the house from before Fredo gets shot:

Godfather II Michael 1

Combining these two images creates the Dr Housman contemplates the changing mores of American society image. It also creates a seriously dark undertone to the apology Baby makes to him. The undercurrent of familial violence that the image brings with it makes me wonder what happens after the big “I Had the Time of My Life” number. (As an aside, what I like about Dirty Dancing is that, like another middling film, Little Miss Sunshine, it has faith in dance as an expressive form – it doesn’t talk you to death when the joyous dance sequence happens.)