Friday, August 24, 2007

RIDING LESSONS, The Zinger!


It takes me far too long to think about ... well, anything. A few weeks ago it cost me the chance to fulfill my wife's most recent dream -- owning a 1957 Ford Ranchero.

I may be lucky. We can't afford it. She climbed out of her momentary depression (over losing an apparently good investment) and frustration (with my tendency to over-think), but I'm still in the mulling-it-over mood.

This time I need to complete two segments of the marketing overview for my memoir to be published next year by the University of Iowa Press.

The second part of the requirement appears the most difficult: The zinger: In as few words as possible—try to fit this into a single sentence—describe the single most important reason the reader must have your book.

One writing friend suggested that I focus part of the zinger on the fact that I came down with poliomyelitis within seven days of receiving the final inoculation to prevent the disease. Scary? Dramatic? Yes, but I almost think it counter-productive. I would never tell anyone not to do something that would help prevent a crippling disease.

My taste for the zinger runs more to a word play on iron lung. I cultivate an ironic point of view on most things, and the fact that I might use "iron lung" and "irony" in the same sentence is intriguing. I also like one of the alternate titles (Boob-high to the World) I had in mind, at least until I discovered it was derivative of the title of another memoir (Nancy Mairs' Waist High in the World).

The question, I think, comes down to engaging emotions without invoking a response motivated by pity. I care not about what I cannot change. Why should any other person care for me?

  • "A journey of a life in a wheelchair begins with a step into an iron lung."

  • "Cook a teenage boy in an iron lung, and an ironic man emerges from the polio stew."

  • "Written with an ironic tone and an emotional spareness that belies the experience of a journey only a few have endured."

  • "Ironic, spare, sometimes angry, more often accepting, Riding Lessons is the story of a man-child falling, failing into an iron lung, only to emerge from polio's cocoon as a man formed from parts broken and ambitions burnt away."

  • "Mix irony with anger, whimsy with regret, and bitterness with acceptance, and a decades-long wheelchair journey begins in pain and despair and culminates in love and freedom."

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