David Brooks Writes a Sestina About Finding The Road to Character -The Toast

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4192DUHSnqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sarah Miller’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

So everyone was talking about character
and I thought I really should write a book
about it soon so I called up my agent
and I said “Do you think this is a good idea?”
and he said “David, I like all of your ideas,
plus, you really understand America.”

So I looked out my window at America
and I thought about character
and I thought about some ideas
you know – those things you put in a book
and I sent them under the heading “idea”
to my agent

and of course my agent
thinks he’s so funny because he’s not from America
and he said to me, “David, one idea
with essentially just one character —
you — won’t make a great book.
But I can come up with some ideas

because let’s face it. Making ideas
out of things that aren’t is just what an agent
does when he wants to sell a book
in America.
I mean, I find some character
and I convince people he’s got a great idea.

It’s my job to take one ok idea
and make it seem like it’s actually a couple of really good ideas.
Like if it was fiction, you’d have this character
who is maybe going to turn out to be a secret agent
spying on America
and then it turns out to be a book

Where there is actually is no big surprise, where really nothing happens at all. A book
that sold because on that particular day that idea
seemed like it would grab America
and give them the right set of ideas
that would somehow enable them to be their very own agents
in their attempt to feel like they as a people had some kind of character.”

And that was it, America, and I understood then that all the ideas
I needed for the book — Well ok, all the idea!
were right there. And so commenced the sober duty of leading you all to agency, of setting you all upon the road to character.

Sarah Miller is the author of the novels Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She has written for many publications and lives in Nevada City, CA.

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