How it feels to be crushed by a literary agent

In the wake of Hamilton Nolan’s recent bitchfest about the onslaught of “attention addiction” memoirs, author Mara Altman return-serves the Gawker editor with her latest overshare, “That’s What She Said”, on Amazon’s Kindle Singles. And, of all the things that her big neurotic knot of essay covers — having a novel rejected, learning the ropes of standup comedy, pissing in the shower while blowing her husband — the moment in which the 31-year old gets pummeled by her literary agent might be the most resounding.

Maybe it’s because failure is always more telling of one’s character than success is. Maybe it’s the bravery that comes with enduring rejection. Or perhaps it’s simply because Mara has a foul mouth and manages to somehow connect every single one of her revelations to her rectum.

Excerpted from Kindle’s preview page:

I was doing some pre-dinner snacking at The Hummus Kitchen, I closed my eyes and imagined my future: I had met the author Martin Amis at the National Book Awards. We were hanging out like old friends, giggling about the nicknames we’d given our hemorrhoids. It was awesome. He’d called his Lloyd. I’d named mine Madeline.

My agent’s call interrupted my daydream. I stepped outside to answer. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, like “Hello.”

“So tell me something,” he then said, quickly.

I assumed he must need the routing number on my checking account.


“Do you really think your main character is sympathetic?”

I stood on that street corner for the next 20 minutes in mute silence, feeling like I’d taken the wrong turn in a horror flick — you know the moment, when the sudden change in lighting and background music signals an impending stabbing or limb dismantling. I put my hands in my pocket, just to be safe.

Meanwhile, he continued full force, tearing my book apart. Basically, he opened up my skull and took a huge dump inside.

I finally stopped paying attention, and focused instead on the hope that my throbbing headache was, in fact, an inoperable brain tumor, and that I would be dead before he finished his scathing critique.

“… and frankly, I don’t even want to see a revision of this!”

Hearing those words, I suddenly flashed back to the moment during my freshman year at college in the spring of 2000 when Sam, my boyfriend (at least, that’s how I’d been referring to the cute guy who sat next to me in Spanish lit), left an “it’s not you, it’s me” message on an answering machine I shared with two roommates. They stared at me with wide-eyed pity while Sam droned on. “Oh, and no need to call back,” he had said before hanging up.

My agent was firing me! He was sticking his thumbs up my ass! I had been canned by an employee of Mara Altman Incorporated! My novel had put me out of fucking business.

Download “That’s What She Said” on Kindle (or the Kindle app) by clicking right here.

Full disclosure: Mara is a friend, but she did not put me up to posting this.