Saturday, October 27, 2007

Suffering Fools Gladly

I've always wondered about this expression. I know a few people who are very commonly described as not suffering fools gladly, and I always experience a twinge of jealousy when I hear it. I certainly don't suffer fools gladly (after all, who does?), but I keep this fact to myself and the fools don't often realize how fed up with them I am. So the jealousy is for the people who keep getting away with making their irritation plain. Why can't I be someone like that?

Instead, I've seriously and politely sat through two separate meetings this month with utterly fourth-rate one-offers who felt they needed to read their manuscripts aloud to me. We'll skip how exactly I got roped into these meetings by otherwise likable counterparts in adult publishing.

Whatever makes people think reading their manuscript aloud to an editor is a good idea? I can think better with a page in front of me, and damn it, if a manuscript can't speak for itself on the page, it isn't going to speak for itself in the bookstore. Maybe they picture standing in bookstores and reading their book aloud to passing bookstore patrons. The problem with that is: most of the people I know who get away with not sufferng fools gladly... own bookstores.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a person who is considered by friends and family as one who does not suffer fools gladly. The key to pulling this off successfully is to learn to say NO without offering explainations. When asked why, simply reply: "Sorry I just can't but thank you for offering/considering me/asking."

literaticat said...

I tell fools to get the hell off my lawn. And if that doesn't work, I break out the salt-pellet gun.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should consider that. Add a little gizmo to the front of the books.

"Push button to hear author read an excerpt aloud."

Maybe THAT'S what they're really asking for.

And, maybe they should think about the fact that it doesn't sound really good unless someone is reading it aloud with all the passionate expression of an author in love with his work.

Deirdre Mundy said...

If James Earl Jones wrote a children's book, it would probably be worth hearing him read it aloud......

Anonymous said...

Here's a foolish question...
What exactly does "not suffer fools gladly" mean?

Shelly said...

Anonymous, it means to have zero tolerance for fools.

Personally, I think the expression should be suffering fools patiently or politely. Nobody is glad about having to put up with stupidity.

But maybe we can be glad that we're decent enough and have enough self-control to be polite and patient with people, no matter how annoying they are, and no matter how much we feel like snarking at them.

Maybe that's where gladly comes in?

2readornot said...

We used to live next door to an older man who brought his dogs over to our lawn for their daily pooping. We asked them not to do this -- they ignored us. So DH finally kept an eye out, and seconds after the act, he ran out and shoveled up a warm one and tossed it into their cement driveway. Voila! :)

I'm also very good at just saying no (with a warm smile, of course).

Anonymous said...

I was in a writer's workshop at a conference...I got to read my first chapter out loud. Turns out, there was an editor in the room and I got a contract out of the deal. Later, I learned that it wasn't the reading of the book that caught her attention, but my critiques of what other people read aloud. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

What does "one-offers" mean, exactly? Are these people who've written one book that you have published, but you have no faith they will write a second publishable book?

Editorial Anonymous said...

No, one-offers are people who have only written a single manuscript; i.e. this is their very first attempt. Utter newbies like the person in 'The Clue Arms Race' who manage through the blessing/curse of connections to see me personally.
Does getting me in person to listen to your manuscript make a difference? No!
I may, in fact, come with a bias against you for so cluelessly taking up my time.

Deirdre Mundy said...

On the subject of bookstore owners not suffering fools gladly, btw--

I used to work at a bookstore where the "customer was always right." except if he was wrong. Or a rude jerk.

It was the only job I've ever loved.......

mr said...

Sometimes it's the bookstore patrons who have to suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. I'll never forget going into my LOCALLY OWNED bookstore and asking if they had any books of essays by E.B. White.

"E.B. White?" the woman said. "Is she the one who wrote Charlotte's Web?"

LindaBudz said...

Do you ever watch The Office?

I've decided to use a line from the most recent episode the next time I have a meeting with a fool.

The Steve Carell character (a fool if there ever was one) is describing his "vision" for an ad the company is planning. He goes on and on and on, with his idea getting more and more ridiculous, until at last the ad's producer holds up one hand and interrupts by saying: "Look, I know your time is valuable."

Brilliant!!

Deirdre Mundy said...

On E.B White-- If you only knew his children's work there's no reason why you would assume he was a man....

And not all bookstores require their employees to know much about books... sometimes you learn on the job..

(I DO have a book of his essays, btw.... they're all marvelous.. I especially love the ones he wrote about his farm in Maine. =) And, of course, any White fan (and writer) NEEDS to have one of the earlier editions of "Elements of Style." The most recent one has some updates that make the text more modern but less fun...)

Sorry, btw.. I know the above is off-topic. But I love E.B. White and think everyone else should too. =)

jfm said...

I like the Steve Jobs approach (if you're in need of a little pick-me-up, take a peek):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60cDHb-tvMA

In his commencement speech at Stanford, he finishes with some personal advice--"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

I attended a conference last year with a famous illustrator/author who let it be known very quickly that he would not suffer foolish questions gladly. Rather than allow us newbies to inquire into all the fascinating experiences of his past, he shut us off cold. Tired? Maybe. Bitter? Perhaps.

Steve Jobs knows how to be a mentor, and how to choose fonts too....

Ypschita said...

"Suffering Fools Gladly" - I recently read this term and want to know what does it mean "exactly"?

Editorial Anonymous said...

http://www.bartleby.com/59/4/sufferfoolsg.html