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April 7, 2009

TT: Up and down, up and down

POPS%20ON%20SET%20OF%20HIGH%20SOCIETY%20%28GENE%20TRINDL%29.jpgThe page proofs of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong will be sent to me on April 24. At that point I'll have a month to make my final corrections. Then I'll be done--really, really done. It can't happen soon enough. I've read through the manuscript so many times that I've lost my ability to see what's there, save on a word-by-word basis. Sometimes I reread Pops and hug myself with delight, sure that I've penned a masterpiece. Just as often, though, my heart sinks to my shoes and I feel equally sure that I dropped the ball somewhere along the way.

The good news, such as it is, is that I've been a professional author long enough to know that both reactions are predictable, and that neither is meaningful. Manic depression is an inevitable stage in the publication of a book, and I'm there with a vengeance. The only reason why it isn't worse is because I have the July 25 premiere of The Letter to distract me, which is sort of like being distracted from your impending execution by voluntarily submitting to root-canal therapy.

In my saner moments I feel fairly confident that Pops is a solid piece of work, maybe even the best thing that I've done. But Louis Armstrong was a great man, and such birds of paradise deserve far more than the best that a biographer has in him. As I acknowledged in this space a couple of months ago, "there's no such thing as a definitive biography of a great man. There can't be. A great man (or woman) is too big to cram into a book-sized box." On my bad days I look at Pops and see only the things that I wish were better about it, of which there are plenty. On other days I rub my hands together like Wile E. Coyote in "Operation: Rabbit" and imagine myself to be a biographical super-genius:

I read through the manuscript for the umpteenth time on Sunday morning and am once again feeling like Mr. Coyote. Alas, we all know what happened to him...

Posted April 7, 2009 12:00 AM

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