Wednesday, November 4, 2009

21 Secret Agent

TITLE: Artistry of Engagement
GENRE: Women’s Fiction

The July heat simmered on Rome’s Via Margutta and rose to the balcony of Hermina Jorgenson's apartment like the fumes of Hell. She tossed the latest issue of Artista Ufficiale to the foot of her chaise, the magazine whose scathing review of her own column in the Times had left her smarting just weeks ago. She’d learned quickly that in the opulent exhibition openings overflowing with Rembrandts and Rafaels, everyone smiles, laughs, toasts the patrons, but it is all a charade.

She wiped the sweat from her brow and reached for the tall glass of ice water on the table next to her.

The table that caught the cannoli crumbs from countless late nights after the theater with Guillaume.

The table that bore the deep, sugary rings of his Frascati wine.

The table that reminded her of that ghastly first haggling experience with him at the Porta Portese.

Images of him stretched out on this very chaise ran riotous through her head. She snorted, tipped her glass. She’d decided against cutting his face out of photos, but tore from her album those of the two lovers – now nothing more than interlopers -- standing near a stone bridge whose roses scaled it in reckless abandon, and stuffed them into the oxidized copper box with the thousand dents. She locked the box, shoved it to the back of her tiny closet. Though she’d throw piles of clothes and the occasional shoe at it, she could never make the box disappear.

That box. Pandora’s box.


  1. I like this very much and would read on.

    Picky point. I don't know how to pronounce the name Guillaume. Tell me soon because I hate to read a whole book where I just blank the name.

  2. I’m a little put off by all the Italian words so soon, and I’m not that fond of the protagonist. Don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I’m not hooked.

  3. I liked the first paragraph, but the four paragraphs that succeeded it turned me off. They all lost their punch because there were so many of them, and the repetition of the table was distracting (is the table really so important?).

    I also found the second to last paragraph confusing. I got lost in its bulky sentences, and I couldn't help but wonder (though not in a what's-going-to-happen-next kind of way) why she would expect a box to disappear after throwing a shoe at it.

    On the whole, not hooked.

  4. Basically OK opening, I thought, but overdone. Also, why would a magazine review a news column -- doesn't quite make sense. And a magazine named "Official Artist"? What kind of magazine would name itself that? I don't think you should say "Rome's Via Margutta." Just "Via Margutta" and sneak the fact that it's Rome in somewhere else in a not-so-blunt way. I not sure there are too many "exhibition openings" with Rembrandts and Rafaels -- they're all in museums. Finally, this sounds like a cultured woman. Why is she hanging out with a vendor from a flea market? Maybe better a dealer on the Via dei Condotti or something?

  5. I would read on. I liked the repetition of the the table. I know it will be important to the story. (Right?) The only thing that bothered me was the mention of cutting his face out of photos. Didn't think it was necessary. You said it when she put the photos into the box and shoved it to the back corner. Great line: "...she could never make the box disappear."

  6. Travener has already asked my first question. Why would a magazine be reviewing another magazine's article?

    Glass of ice water, really? No gin?

    I got the impression that the MC was fairly sophisticated and mature. The part where she considers cutting his face out of photos contradicts that impression. It's a very junior-high response.

    I'd give it a few more pages. I like your writing style.

    Good luck

  7. The detail that caught my attention was the dents in the box, that made me curious and want to read on.

    I found the amount of backstory distracting for a first page. I'd rather get to know the character by seeing her in action and then learn the backstory a bite at a time.

    I'd read a bit more, but if it continued to give more backstory than current action, I'd stop.

    Slightly hooked.

  8. I think this is very evocative and I do like the description. The action, however,(reminsicing, remembering, musing) is a bit flat and as an opening it's been done a zillion times. If this was my submission I would be reaching for the synopsis to see where the story goes. If this is a scorned woman story...well, can't say that is a favorite of mine. I'd be hoping for something compelling and twisty.

  9. I'm glad I'm not the only one wondering why a magazine would review a column from another publication.

    This didn't grab me. The first paragraph is interesting, but basically it's a woman sitting around drinking water. It would be more interesting if we saw her stuff the box into the back of her closet rather than have her reminisce about it.

  10. Way too much alliteration in the third sentence. With the choice of words, it looks deliberate, which pulled me out of the story.

    You hook me with what follows. The specific descriptions of memories. I love the details about the box, and how it still haunts her.

    I don't read much women's fiction, but I would read on. :-)

  11. The best part was the section about the box. I wasn't too engaged with the MC before then

    I found the use of 'whose' in relation to inanimate objects (eg Magazines and stone bridges) quite jarring, as I would tend to use it only for people or animals.

    I checked it out in a style guide, and while it's not strictly incorrect, it is acknowledged as a tricky subject.

    I'd suggest rewording the phases to eliminate the need to use it.