Politics & Policy

Droplets of Faith

The key to any good book is to murder your darlings--literally.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the July 18, 2005, issue of National Review.

To: Hamziyusef18966@gmail.com

From: editorial@harpercollins.com

Subj: your manuscript

Dear Hamzi:

I can’t tell you how thrilled all of us here at HarperCollins were to read your book proposal. All of us here are, of course, deeply saddened by your incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, but we’re absolutely psyched to have your book on our list for the fall! I’ve spoken with your agent, Andrew Wylie, about the original title of the book, “Detained But Not Deterred,” and if it’s okay with you, we’d like to noodle on it some more on our end. None of us were really “grabbed” by the title, and let’s be honest: We both want this book to “go big,” as the kids say, so maybe a punchier title will cut through the clutter. Over here, we all like the idea of calling it “Stream of Faith” or maybe “Droplets of Faith,” to remind people about the really harrowing thing that happened to your copy of the Koran, but we’ll come up with a longer list and go through it with you when the time comes. Anyway, until then, we’re eager to see pages as soon as you’ve got them! If there’s anything we can do here, let us know!

All the best,

Betsy

P.S.: I know they’re keeping you in a mostly shaded area, but in case you didn’t read New York magazine last week, remember: Use sunblock!!

To: Hamziyusef18966@gmail.com

From: editorial@harpercollins.com

Subj: early pages

Dear Hamzi:

Thanks a million for sending the most recent batch of pages. We’ve read through them up here and we’re still really excited about the project!

The childhood section in particular a lot of us found very moving. It couldn’t have been easy growing up as a middle-class male in Saudi Arabia. Your section on household help (or lack thereof!!) was particularly sharp and memorable.

Our instinct, though, is to cut that section way, way down. It takes away some of the focus and drive from the rest of the narrative, and it makes it, in a way, almost too personal. Yes, of course, this terrible incarceration is happening to you, but it’s also happening to 500 other people, and we want our readers to really get a sense of the huge scale of this outrage. I mean, 400 people! That’s a lot of people! That’s almost the size of our entire marketing department for trade paperbacks in the self-help/personal-development area! So our feeling is, cut the section. We all love it, of course, but as Willa Cather once said, it’s important sometimes to “murder your darlings. . .”

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