Serpent Blog

A Letter from a Reader 
Please forgive me. I am humbly in awe of what the universe will provide if you ask for it. I have been feeling very down, very sad, because the world of book publishing, the business of it, is so cold, so short-sighted, so cruel. I have been thinking seriously of giving up. Never writing again. And then comes this, this lovely letter from a reader in the midst of Serpent Box. Here's what he says:

"In the train, I’m sitting next to a woman who’s reading a business book called “The Case For Levity”, opened to a page with a little text box that says, literally, “8 Questions for Measuring a Potential Employee’s Fun Quotient”. Ha! I’ve been waiting for the Slaughter Mountain chapter since Monday...I’m beyond questioning you as an author – you’ve already earned my trust as a reader, and since you’re a craftsman I will digress briefly and tell you specifically how you did it to me. Each of these ‘checkerboard chapters’, the Ten Years Earlier section, has a payoff. At first glance, I thought “Ten years earlier? Oh noooo! I’ve got to wait until I find out what on earth happens to Jacob!”

But you make it easy to wait. Every chapter illuminates something vital in his parents’ lives, something meaningful and interesting. You don’t betray your reader. Every chapter ends with a feeling of dawning enlightenment, and I know that it is purposeful and intentional. And then, somewhere around the nighttime box car incident with Charles and Sylus, I was content to leave Jacob on the back burner, lying bitten in the Tyborn tree, because I already trust you. And all of a sudden, I’m more interested in Charles and Rebecca than I am in Jacob. A coup for the author!

Our Sofia was born at home, by the way. Jacob’s birth rang true to me. I recognized it. I knew, when reading it, that you were a father. I tasted a little of the love you have for your daughters. It echoed and resonated with the love I have for mine.

So, to resume what I began in the first paragraph: I’ve been waiting for Slaughter Mountain since Monday. A good waiting, a getting ready to savor a good meal kind of waiting. And you pulled it off for me. I don’t see any of the work you put into it, edits or revisions or doubts. I know the work that goes into crafting something, and I know how difficult or impossible it is to come back to it later, separate from the experience of making it. But I’m telling you: from the outside, it flowed. Easily, perfectly. I forgot I was reading, I forgot I was on a train. You pulled me out of myself and landed me in the crowd under the circus tent, and I was a spectator, and then, as in a dream, I was Charles, or perhaps just behind him. And then I was the boy, with a tamed rattlesnake in my hands and filled with the spirit of the Holy Ghost… as I was in my mother’s high octane Pentecostal church, drizzled with oil, speaking in tongues, and watching the casting out of demons.

You pulled me straight out of myself, heated me in your poetic prose, pounded at me and molded me and then sank me in the ice bath of my own memories, and you made me different. Your writing changed me, man!

I always used to joke that my mom’s church was just one level below snake handling. It is a bizarre and wonderful experience to have you leading me down this road you’ve built.

Thanks for writing this book. It’s marvelous, it feels just right to be reading it, and I am happy to know you. I don’t know what kind of difficulties you’re facing today, but if you ask me, you should let ‘em go. You’re an author, and your book is out there doing good things to people. Everything else is just details.

I can’t wait to keep reading!


THIS, dear readers, is why I write and why I will keep writing, as long as you let me. As long as you will keep reading.

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