Technological Advances And The Struggling Writer
When I first began writing, my heroes were the beatniks, writers in touch with the street, on the constant verge of starvation or collapse, scrawling out amazing poems on pieces of paper with a pen, or even in the margins of newspapers or on the back of leaflets ripped down from a city wall or construction site barrier. High-tech then was a portable variety of manual typewriter, set up in some dingy hotel room or wretched lifeboat apartment. And its clackety-clack, its loud mechanical chatter, was a sign of life from the bottom of the pit, the sound of something unconquerable, something being born against all odds. A beautiful sound - a kind of art, in and of itself. The sound of a man in ecstasy, lost in the trance of growing wings.
I loved that time in my life, that magic moment when youth is ready to face the world, to climb any mountain, to overcome any injustice, to solve any mystery, when pain and hardship and rejection are only fuel, making one’s soul greater, and one’s art more intense. And yet, sad to say, we all have our limits for taking abuse - and emptiness and loneliness and disappointment can add up over time, wounding the writer, finally driving him to be practical, or breaking him down like a prisoner held in a dark room for months without relief. There comes a time when talent needs to be discovered, recognized, find an open door, or it begins to bleed to death. That is when the artist’s heart becomes even more important than his gift; his ability to struggle, even more important than his ability to create.
For those who do not know this world, there is an assumption that talent is always rewarded, and that if someone can write well, he will be published. Unfortunately, this has never been the case. Yes, great writers and good writers have been discovered by the publishing industry. Many others, however, have been lost in the "slush pile", amidst volumes of unsolicited manuscripts which typically arrive at publishing houses, and receive only cursory attention from overworked junior staff members, before being sent a routine rejection slip. (Most of the major publishing companies will not accept submissions unless they come from an agent. And agents are not easy to come by, either.) Other writers, recognized for a spark or promising style, have nonetheless had their works rejected for being too different, too unconventional, "not commercial enough", etc. It doesn’t take too much imagination, even for those who have never written anything more than a note on a Christmas card, to realize that having a novel rejected is not a little thing. Having a few of them rejected feels like having years of your life thrown away. Like a general who has lost one battle after another, surrender starts to make sense, especially if one’s "lone wolf days" have been given up for the luxury of living with someone, whose needs for attention and sustenance begin to conflict with the vast amounts of wasted time, writing only to be rejected; especially if one is poor, and needs to work, and has only a little free time and energy left at the end of the day, which other demands are being made upon. This is the time when many writers have finally been beaten; while a few others have persisted, fighting to the end, like the doomed horsemen of the Light Brigade, charging straight ahead into a beautiful, inevitable death.
In my early days of writing, besides the normal processes of the publishing industry, and some particulars of my own case, which are just those - particulars - I was definitely impeded by technological considerations. In the beginning, I did my writing with a Royal portable, and later a Hermes portable, both manual machines. (I never felt comfortable with an electric, which seemed to lessen my control of the production of words.) But this was only part of my "technological problem." I also found it hard to compose fresh material on the typewriter, itself - any typewriter - and, therefore, hand-wrote my rough drafts with a pen. After that, I would then face the arduous task of redoing my original draft on the typewriter, transcribing material from the handwritten pages, and editing it at the same time. Needless to say, correcting mistakes was a real hassle in those days, especially if you were trying to produce a high-quality final draft, to be submitted to a publishing house. Eraser pencils were a horror, frequently making holes in the pages. I gradually came to rely heavily upon correcting tabs, those little slips of paper you would put into your machine, striking over an error to white it out, then removing it so you could type in the right letter. But even these took time, and used too often, left a page looking somewhat unprofessional. Without a doubt, the technology at my disposal in those days made novel-writing - a huge effort to begin with - even more difficult. Lots of time was swallowed up in technical aspects of preparing my novel for submission, and the price of rejection, in terms of lost time and frustrated emotions, was, therefore, especially acute.
And then came the era of the PC. What a revolution! A machine that put the art of making corrections and editing on an entirely different plane! Now, for the writer who typed his rough draft to begin with, there was no need to type a second draft, he could simply manipulate material stored on disk, rework his novel on the computer screen, and change his rough draft into a finished draft with a minimum of effort.
There was one drawback, however. The price of computers. In those days, as word-processors and PCs began to come into vogue, I was hardly doing well economically, and so I persisted with my outdated manual typewriter, and my outdated manuscript-preparation techniques. Left out of the computer revolution, my situation, at first, declined even more. Now the manuscripts which I sent in must have begun to appear even more shoddy and amateurish than before, as publishers became more and more accustomed to receiving faultless submissions of clear, unblemished print on computer-produced pages. No holes or smudges, nor any of the thin white cake left behind by correcting tabs.
I can’t deny that the situation infuriated me, on one level. To me, it seemed that writing was becoming more "classist", that is to say, that the poor writer was on the verge of being squeezed out of writing for good, because expensive technology was setting a new standard for submissions, and leaving him on the outside, branding anything he sent in as the work of an amateur, because of its external appearance. I saw a parallel to the historical process in which wealth enabled some warriors, during the Middle Ages, to acquire the powerful horses, the armor and the weapons that enabled them to dominate others, and to consolidate their role as a social elite (the knightly class), while the poor were doomed by their lack of resources to remain on the margins of this new "technology", and therefore frozen into their role as serfs. My effort to "break into writing" seemed in desperate trouble, as I fell way behind the technology of the day.
Besides that, I heard reports that the new technological breakthroughs, by increasing the productivity of already established writers (who saved vast amounts of time between the rough draft and final draft stages of their writing), were limiting opportunities for new writers even more. Of course, publishers - who are businessmen - preferred to work with known writers who had a money-making track record; and as these writers produced more, less space was left available in the market for new names to break in. This may have been a low point in my writing days, when the door seemed to be pretty much closing in my face.
Things only began to change - or so I thought - when I finally got my hands on a PC of my own - a necessity, I realized, if I was not to lose my dream of writing, forever. Thank God, the technological advances of recent days have been so massive and far-reaching - within the high-tech, industrial nations of the world, that is - that the prices for PCs have finally become affordable, though "affordable" is, naturally, a relative term. (Working as a messenger, for example - as I did for many years of my youth, during which time I learned so much about life and society, and filled myself up with so much of the real-world and its sharp edge - I would probably not have been able to save up enough to buy one.)
For a time, the new technology thrilled me, and my mind raced with ideas of resurrecting my youthful writing dreams, which had stagnated during a long period of survival and disappointment. Once more, it seemed, I was "back in the running." The truth of the matter, however, was that the publishing industry remained as difficult to access as ever. Not only that, but by the time I got my new PC, the publishing industry was in the throes of a drastic contraction. Companies were going under, or merging, the market for selling one’s work was shrinking, there were less doors to knock on, and the struggle to get through any one of the doors that remained was becoming harder. This was true for both book markets for novels, and magazine markets for short stories. Why the decline? I am not a businessman, I only heard rumors and speculations from across the room. Things like the rising costs of publication, and declining readership, as our society’s addiction to the visual image (TV, rented movies, & video games) deepened, and finally, as computers began to exert an overpowering attraction on the public. It was also brought to my attention that the publishing industry was losing its last ties with the past, as editors who had once delighted in finding new authors, and working with them to help them develop their material, were now looking mainly for "finished products" churned out by experienced veterans, who were masters of well-proven, economically reliable formulas. The end result was that even though I was now armed with up-to-date technology, and blessed with greater maturity and understanding than I had been as a youth, as a result of time and all the blows of life, I was just as stranded as ever.
I remember, somewhere during this period of my life, writing for information about self-publishing. Discouraged and seemingly blocked out of print by the dynamics of the publishing industry, I considered the possibility of trying to get my work off the ground on my own. Admittedly, there was a stigma attached to this. Some people referred to this kind of publishing as "vanity publishing", while others considered it to be a last resort of writers who "weren’t good enough" to get published the regular way. I remembered the part in Cyrano de Bergerac where that great swordsman/poet, rattling off a list of things he considered beneath the dignity of a true artist, said, "What would you have me do? …Wear out my belly groveling in the dust? No thank you! …Publish verses at my own expense? No thank you!" But my desire to "break through" the silence surrounding my life, my soul, my dreams, and conscience, overcame my pride. What stopped me was the price. Self-publishing, at that time, via specialized book publishers, was simply too expensive to be an option for me.
But then, the technological revolution came to the rescue yet again. Striking new options appeared for the struggling writer, based upon the falling prices of computers, the burgeoning world of the Internet, and the advent of e-books and print-on-demand publishing.
For me, the first glimmer of hope I discovered was a web site for writers which appeared on the Internet, "Themestream", which, for some time, advertised for submissions in The New York Times. They were providing space on the web, they announced, where writers (of articles, fiction, poetry, etc.) could post their creations. Anyone who wanted to post could do so, provided they adhered to certain basic guidelines (no hate, porno, etc.) Based on the number of hits (visits) one’s writings received, one would receive royalty payments from the company, which meant that if one could attract a following with a "column" - or, as I planned to do, with a serialized story - one could bypass the world of book and magazine publishers altogether, and begin to generate income as a writer through the Internet, as well as gain valuable exposure which could possibly lead to more conventional opportunities down the road. (The company’s plan was to use the writing to draw traffic to the site, and use that traffic to attract and generate revenue from advertisers.) "Wow!" I thought at the time. "This is amazing, a complete revolution for writers! A whole new techno-culture of creation, allowing us to crash right through the roadblock of the publishing industry, and put our work in front of the entire world! Farewell to the blockade!" However, before I could get my material together, Themestream began to collapse. At first, they cut back on the royalty rates, then eliminated them altogether. They said this was an economic necessity, but I wondered if this had been the plan all along: pay the writers to get them here, then turn this into an "exposure only" site. Whatever the case, it seems that Themestream’s reports of economic trouble were no myth. Not long afterwards, the company folded, the same as so many other dot.coms - doomed by an overly optimistic vision that soon outdistanced its means.
The collapse of Themestream was a disappointment to me, though I soon learned of another Internet-based venue, "Infopost", a site which creators could use to sell their material to the public (this was a digital marketplace, in which one posted a description of the material one had to offer. On that basis, the interested buyer would then make an on-line payment, and download the material he wanted - which the writer, of course, would have already uploaded to Infopost, which stored his files for him, and released them to buyers, once they paid.) The site was recommended to me. But, by that time, I had developed yet another strategy to take advantage of the new technological advances that were taking place. (And just as well - according to my most recent information, as of September 2002 "infopost" has just bitten the dust, although its parent company survives as a rather different operation.)
I had just heard of a new publishing company called "Iuniverse.com", which was a very economical vehicle for self-publishing. Their thing was "print-on-demand books." Due to the increasingly high-tech/electronic nature of the publishing process (which used to rely on type set up in galleys, printing presses, etc., but which was increasingly coming to depend upon files stored on disk), it had now become economically feasible to turn out very small book orders on short notice, something which, in the past, would have been unthinkable (too much time and effort for the return). This enabled the concept of print-on-demand ("special order") books to come into vogue: books set up electronically and stored on computers or disks, which could be printed up, in a regular book format, as soon as an order was received. This technology was useful to the publishing industry, because it helped companies to avoid the danger of making a big miscalculation on a first print-run. (Traditionally, such miscalculations would result in supply vastly exceeding demand, and in lots of books remaining unsold, meaning that the cost of production for those books would not be recouped: which is NOT GOOD NEWS for a publishing company.) Now, with print-on-demand capabilities, publishing companies could reduce their initial print-runs to lessen the risk of overestimating sales, while still maintaining the capacity to respond rapidly to demand if the books "caught on." More importantly, in my case, the new technology enabled companies like Iunivese to offer a self-publishing service to authors like me, for a reasonable fee.
When I first bit the Iuniverse hook, in late 2001, you could publish your book with them for only $99! (This was if you uploaded it to them over the Internet. If you sent them your manuscript by mail, the cost was higher.) For that price, they would set your manuscript up on disk, formatting it as well as designing a cover for your book (you could input the process of cover-design, and even provide a graphic file to be used for it). Your book would receive an ISBN number (a must for all published books), and it would be listed on the Ingram Data Base (used by many bookstores to order books), as well as listed on various Internet venues like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Whenever an order was placed for the book, the company would generate a copy - which was a professional quality, paperbound version - and send it on to the buyer or retailer who had placed the order. You, as the author, would receive quarterly royalty payments, which were high for industry standards, for each book sold. (Another asset of the program was that the initial publication time for your manuscript, once you uploaded it to Iuniverse, was generally 3 months or under - which is really phenomenal for the publishing industry, where the gap between acceptance and publication is often well over a year. Once the book was set up for production, of course, orders could be run off in a matter of days.)
But, of course, everything was not as "peachy" as I’ve made it seem till now. There were some serious drawbacks. The production system Iuniverse had in place when I used it to publish The Journey of Rainsnow and The Message of Rainsnow was erratic, and sometimes maddening. My initial queries about book size were inaccurately answered by my first contacts there, leading to real complications when I ended up sending in a manuscript that was way too long. (I had to break it down, and rewrite and redesign large parts of my work before they could accept it.) A photo I sent to cover design was completely ignored, and to my horror, I was confronted with a cover which I found ugly and even frightening. Another cover idea was inaccurately executed (would you draw a tiger if you were asked to draw a lion?) In most incidences of even slightly complicated formatting - like the use of lists or columns, and especially the bibliography - (fa’get about it!) - the result was shocking - utter chaos. It looked like a bomb had been dropped into the middle of the words, blowing them into complete disarray across the page.
Thank God for the company PSAs - Publishing Services Assistants - who help to keep the process from self-destructing! I cannot speak for all PSAs, but my PSA was a godsend. Every author who enters into production with Iuniverse, at least as of the time I submitted my work in late 2001, is assigned a PSA, who is there, at the other end of his computer, or phone line, to help guide and support him through the supposedly simple, but sometimes mind-boggling publication process. Since that process is largely mechanical, based on company formatting and reformatting programs, templates, etc. - (this is one reason the price for self-publishing here is so affordable) - the PSA is utterly crucial, in order to provide some human reaction capability to the system. If something goes wrong, they can get up out of a chair to visit the department that screwed up; they can switch from automatic pilot to manual control, and save your work from "technology gone mad." After I got a chance to see the first proofs for my book in the new Iuniverse format - which were absolutely nuts - my PSA was helpful, understanding, supportive, and efficient. She not only helped to straighten out the problems (the covers, the bibliography, etc.), but also made an effort to pay me back for all the headaches I’d gone through, by providing me with extra copies of my book. That was first-rate customer service.
Besides the potential production problems - problems which a conscientious PSA can help to overcome - other drawbacks included the fact that there was no editing or proofreading service, such as a major publishing company would provide. (Now there is, but you must pay extra for it.) For the price of the package, this lack was a given. Meaning that you, yourself, had to (and if you opt for the cheapest package, still have to) do your own proofreading and editing in order to insure a quality book. Nowadays, with "spell check", and even "grammar check" software available to install (or coming pre-installed) on many computers, the amateur has a fighting chance to handle this task on his own. However, to be quite honest, these computerized correction programs often leave a lot to be desired, and may sometimes cause as much damage as they do good, by creating a false sense of confidence, convincing the writer who does not see any words underlined in red on his computer screen that all is well with his manuscript. But just take a look at what can get by the "spell check", just to use one example: "Mine name are Gorge and I lose to right books, because four me I sea and no so much inn my mint that I just half to chair it with the whirled." No red lines there. Beyond this, even for a very capable, experienced writer with a good grasp of grammar and spelling, things do get by. Proofreading is an art form of its own, and not really easy to master, especially for the author of a book. In my own case, I reread my manuscript several times, both off my flat copy, and off their proofs on my computer screen. My eyes took a beating. And I still missed things. (I knew the manuscript so well that I "passed over" mistakes, knowing what the text was supposed to say and somehow managing to "see" what was supposed to be there, instead of what was really there. The mistakes which made it past me into print were relatively few, but also irritating, especially one word omission which changed the meaning of an important sentence to its opposite!) Needless to say, a really careless or poor job of proofreading could result in a terribly unprofessional looking text, which would probably doom the book from making much headway, though there could always be exceptions. (Consider Bob Marley, whose Jamaican-style Rasta English drives professors nuts, and yet has undeniable substance, poetry, power, and life, and has captured a worldwide audience.)
Besides these concerns, there is also the fact that the final prices of the books turned out by Iuniverse seem, in many cases, to be higher than those of comparable books produced by standard publishing companies for the same market. (This is normal, since standard companies reduce printing costs by running bulk orders, while Iuniverse may sometimes print only one or two copies of a title at a time.) The effect, however, is that the Iuniverse book may be at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace, due to its higher price.
Far and away the biggest drawback of all when self-publishing with Iuniverse.com, however, is the fact that you are also basically on your own in terms of marketing and promotion. These fields are actually immensely important aspects of the conventional publishing business, and vast sums of money are poured into promoting authors and books, getting book reviews, exposure on radio and even TV, book-signings, bookstore appearances, newspaper articles, shelf space and bookstore displays, Internet coverage, etc., etc. Although Iuniverse does provide some tips and guidance in this regard, the brunt of selling your book comes down to you. If you do not develop aggressive and intelligent strategies for getting the word out about your book, and exposing and promoting it, it will stay invisible, stored on disk or in a file in some computer at Iuniverse, waiting for an order to be placed. It will be possible to sell 0 books and make $0. Whether your desire is to go all the way with Iuniverse and make money by selling your book through Iuniverse, or to generate a small number of professional-quality demo books with which to try to catch the attention of the conventional publishing world, and get them to "pick up" your book from Iuniverse, or to approach you for a new book (this has happened), the fact is you will have to be ready to work hard to turn the initial joy of seeing your book "in print" into something useful in terms of advancing your writing career, or creating revenue for you.
There is also the question of Iuniverse’s stability and longevity. How long will Iuniverse last? Is it economically sound? From December 2001 to August 2002, I notice that the basic self-publishing package which I used ("Writer’s Club") went up in price form $99 to $159. ("Writer’s Showcase", which is selective, an imprint open only to books of a certain quality - which helps buyers to know they are getting a "product" that is not utterly amateurish - costs $349. "Writer’s Advantage", which includes proofreading and copyediting services, is $949.) I wonder if these price hikes are indications of financial problems - or signs that this affordable service, so valuable to the struggling writer, in spite of its flaws, is on its way to soaring beyond the economic reach of humble writers, and becoming just one more resource for the affluent. [NOTE: The trend of rising prices, noted above, seems to be continuing. As of 12/03, Iuniverse had reorganized its publishing program to provide one of two packages: its "Select Program", or basic package, from $459; and its "Premier Program" from $699. Although the basic package offered more than the previous basic package had, the additional services offered - such as automatic e-book formatting, in addition to standard book formatting - were probably not equal in value to the price hike; and, in all events, authors were denied the option of choosing a simpler package in order to reduce their costs. The result is that in a matter of two years, the cost of publishing one's book via Iuniverse has increased by nearly 500%, not a very promising sign for the writer of humble means. It should be noted that Xlibris, a major competitor of Iuniverse in the self-publishing market, has a comparable basic program, starting at $500, suggesting that these increased costs may be market-wide. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT ALL PRICES AND PROGRAMS ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME!]
Anyway, once I had finished publishing with Iuniverse - and let me say I was satisfied with the appearance of the final copies which they produced (it was just amazing to hold something in my hands, which I had written, that was actually in the form of a real book!) - I had to face the question of promotion and marketing. The incentive to do something on this front was especially increased when my first royalty statement was inadvertently opened by someone else in front of a group of people - grrrr! - who were all so astonished at the low amount of money that I received, that they began by laughing at me, then later weighed me down with their pity, and even seemed consumed by fears that I might be contemplating suicide! Once again, technology came into play in my strategy for promoting my finished, but still invisible, work.
My instinct at once drew me to the amazing world of the Internet, that vast web of nations and minds that brings the whole world together in a kind of magic public square beyond the reach and limitations of one’s little neighborhood and the worn-down battlefields of one’s defeats. What a resource! One day I imagine it will be reeled in by dictators or fear-drenched governments, but for now, it is there to exploit. And so, I began to explore the many opportunities for putting up a personal web site for free (from AOL’s home page program, to Yahoo’s GeoCities), or for an affordable cost (such as Yahoo’s GeoCities Pro and Business Starter). Most of these hosting packages included some form of program support which would aid one in designing a simple web site, so that even a "pure artist", "a man of letters" or "creative space cadet" with not an atom of technical savvy, could get something up and running. In the case of those individuals not satisfied with the sometimes simple and stifling templates offered for web designing by these venues, more powerful tools existed (which some of these sites could support, and some could not): tools like Adobe PageMill; Dreamweaver; and most popular of all, Microsoft FrontPage. My own choice was FrontPage (did the fact that I could not find PageMill in any Compusa, when I went around looking for it, have anything to do with this?) For what I needed, at the time, it offered the best balance of capability and pricing which I could find. (This does not mean it would be the right choice for everyone.) - And this is how I started up my own web site! (Note: When you choose a service to host your web site, it is very important - if you have built your site up with outside software, such as FrontPage - to make sure that the service fully supports your software, in the version that you have used. Otherwise, you may encounter real headaches setting up and managing your site. In the case of Yahoo, for example, as of September 2002, it did not fully support FrontPage 2002.)
The purpose of the web site, of course, was to begin the work of promoting the books which Iuniverse had allowed me to self-publish. (Since then, my concept of the site has expanded, and I am trying to do more things than just that with it.) Without that promotional work, the books, as I have said, would go nowhere, do nothing, just sit somewhere on a disk, "gathering dust." But as anyone who has any experience with the web can tell you, just the fact of putting up a web site doesn’t mean that things are going to take off, either. You have to struggle to make your web site interesting, attractive in some way. A site that says "Hello - Buy My Books - Good-bye" isn’t going to get much of a response, most likely, and sales will stay at a pitiful low. The key is creating traffic, giving the site value above and beyond that of merely promoting your books by saying they are out there, won’t you please buy them? The site must be worthwhile in its own right, have a genuine and intriguing or inviting content, and if enough people come to it and are impressed by what they find there, some of them may be tempted to buy your books, or go for whatever it is you want to promote. This is the stage I am in now: developing this web site. Right now I am concentrating on written content, and on devising a competent internal navigational structure based upon hyperlinks and bookmarks, since I am not skillful in terms of manipulating graphic arts and files - something I should try to master, since well-conceived visual images are a major expectation and draw on the web - although too heavy a reliance on visual imagery can also slow down and tie up a web site, due to the size of the files, which is a major turn-off for the prospective visitor! (Naturally, the web site, itself, also needs to be promoted by surfing, communicating with others, linking with other sites, and working its way into a respectable position within relevant search mechanisms.) As the web site begins to draw more traffic, it is my hope that the sales of the books I have already written will pick up; that sales will be created in advance for the books I am planning to write; and that other opportunities will develop, allowing new projects to unfold.
I hope that this discussion on the effect of technology on the life of the writer, presented mainly from the perspective of my own life experience, will not seem too personal or self-absorbed. It really is my intention, here, to provide some useful insight to fellow writers (many of whom know far more than I do about all of this, anyway). When it comes to e-books - which, it seems, should have been very prominently featured in my article - I can only say that I have hardly mentioned them, because I do not really know them. Yes, I know that there are venues which allow one to reformat one’s manuscript on disk as an electronic (e) book. I know that these e-books may be sold over the Internet, and downloaded into a PC, or a laptop, or set up in a palm reader, and that one may then read the book on a screen instead of on the pages of an old-style book. I have also heard industry people saying, "E-books are the future of publishing." And yet, at the same time, some major e-book projects like Time-Warner’s ipublish.com program, which focused on enabling new authors to break into print via e-books, have collapsed (2002). Executives there claim to still believe in the idea, but say that it’s time has not yet come, especially in light of the current (2001-2002) economy. I am not knowledgeable enough about business matters and trends to be able to make a long-range forecast regarding e-books, I can only say that I myself strongly prefer the old-fashioned book (only the tree-saving aspect of e-books moves me). For me, I love to hold books, and carry them, to feel that they have an independent existence, and do not depend upon a computer being turned on, to come to life. I want to be able to escape for a while with them, into the forest, out to the beach, or a park bench (I’ll settle for that), and to read them without feeling like I am part of the high-tech world, part of an electronic consumerist society. I think that e-books will never make it with people like me, who grew up in the world of books, and were won over long ago by the magic of that world, by the pages you could turn, the friend the book could become, the secret power it could embody. But maybe in another generation, after mine dies out, as the computer’s presence becomes more and more omnipresent…
Whatever the case, there is no doubt that new technology has provided new hope to many struggling writers such as myself, who seemed doomed to live and die unheard before the advent of the PC, the Internet, the World Wide Web, web-designing software, print-on-demand books, and perhaps e-books, brought us one more chance to fulfill our desperate long shot purpose, our painful insatiable longing to "reach the unreachable star" of our dreamer’s eye.
REFERENCE: Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker (Modern Library edition).
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