Truman Capote wrote that "no writers ever forget their first acceptance," and now that I've signed on with independent New York publisher 2 Leaf Press, I can testify to the veracity of that statement. I can also testify that a number of the rejections I received along the way have made me think more deeply and write more acutely than I had before. So before any new readers delve into "The Morning Side of the Hill," I'd like to introduce it here with a few thoughts from the editors who passed on it. Think of them as blurbs that were just a bit too honest, perhaps, to make it onto the jacket copy.
I hope you enjoy both the rejections and the novel itself!
Thank you very much for sending me The Morning Side of the Hill, and thanks too for your patience in waiting to hear back. Its portrait of identity and human connection is beautifully done. I found Al and Willie's scenes among the most moving. The city comes to life too--I was surprised by how many places I in fact recognized from Prospect Heights and the East Village (I'm just a few blocks away from the St. Mark's Bookshop and Angel Share). But I'm afraid that, in the end, the characters were styled in such a way that they stayed at arm's length for me. Their dilemmas are poignant, but feel also at a remove. So I'm going to have to pass, though I'm glad to have read. No doubt someone else will feel differently--and I'm not at all surprised Ezra Fitz already has such wonderful support from fellow writers--so I wish you all the best in placing this elsewhere. Thanks again, and please do try me again soon.
From Little, Brown:
Thanks for sending me Ezra Fitz’s novel, The Morning Side of the Hill. He is a beautiful writer. I love the dovetailing of the two stories set in Morningside Heights and Crown Heights. Both Willie and Mo are still to find a place for themselves, in ways that echo each other but are also unique. While I was drawn more to Willie’s story, I didn’t get quite as clear a picture of him as I did of Mo. He seems less clear on what he wants for himself—or what he no longer wants for himself. (Though his burgeoning friendship with Al is moving.) Though I liked the reverberations of these two narratives, I didn’t get quite the sense of “through-line” that I wanted—the overarching story takes a bit too long to emerge. In the end, while I admired the writing, I wasn’t completely gripped. I’m sure others will disagree with me!
The farther I got into Ezra’s manuscript, the more I could appreciate the slow-burn nature of this prose. That is, he has a way of writing elegant but simple sentences that have a greater cumulative effect than they may seem to have as one reads them. And the Faulkner pastiche angle of this is certainly intriguing. But I’m afraid that the overall sadness of the events was reiterated by the dual narrative aspect of this, and I also felt that the Willie story was much stronger than the Mo story throughout. This somewhat unbalanced structure made the novel feel unformed to me, and when a couple of other readers here concurred, I knew that I would have to let this go. I am very sorry to disappoint, especially because of Ezra’s fluidity of writing, but I wish you the best of luck with other houses and hope that this finds a good home.
From The Dial Press:
I’m a Wild Palms fan, so was very curious to spend some time with Ezra Fitz’s novel. And I admired in many ways the clear authorial intelligence behind his update. Still, I didn’t have the kind of rare, impassioned response to the writing itself I’d need in order to be the novel’s champion. I’m sorry not to have had that kind of strong reaction, and I thank you for the opportunity to consider. Congrats by the way on your recent sale of TAKING FLIGHT. It sounds great, and like the type of narrative nonfiction that I would love to see on the Dial list.
From Riverhead Books:
I'm sorry to take so long in responding onThe Morning Side of the Hill by Ezra Fitz, but thank you for thinking to send it my way. Fitz’s ambition here is impressive, and I was drawn in by the places this story traverses. Fitz is a fine writer and he’s woven these voices together well. But unfortunately, the narrative ultimately didn't draw me in, so although I’m admiring of what Fitz is accomplished here, I just don’t think I’m the right editor for this. I’m sure others elsewhere will have the right amount of enthusiasm to offer. Thanks again for considering me and I hope we can connect on something else soon!
From Simon & Schuster:
Many thanks for sending Ezra Fitz’s novel. He’s a talented writer with a gift for making quotidian details stand out in sharp relief and breathing life into these two New York portraits. But while I admired the writing, I felt that Mo and Willie’s narratives were more meditative and less clearly linked than I would have liked. Ultimately that left me feeling that the novel was a bit too quiet and I’m not sanguine that we could get the attention we’d need. I’m sorry that’s the case.
From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Thanks so much for sending me MORNING SIDE OF THE HILL. I admired the ambition of the structure and the complexity of the characters-- they were vibrant, difficult, and often beautiful. But in the end I have to say that I just didn't find the voice quite captivating enough to be a dogged champion for the novel, so I'll have to pass.
From Henry Holt:
Many thanks for thinking to send Ezra Fitz’s THE MORNING SIDE OF THE HILL. The confidence of Ezra’s prose captured me right away. There’s a terrific lyricism here and he paints rich portraits of Harlem and neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Of course, this is a really intriguing idea and a bold way to imagine a novel—I’m in awe of his hutzpah. But in the end, I’m not sure that the full cast of characters came alive for me. Marty and Mo were especially tough for me to crack, and I think it’s crucial to have a connection with them here. So I admire Ezra Fitz’s talent (and I have much deep admiration for his translation work as well), but I’m sorry to say I’m just not the right editor for this. No doubt, this will find the right home. Thank you again for thinking of me, and I hope we find something together soon.