Judson Merrill Queries an Agent

My literary career is young but it’s never too early to get a hand into the sock puppet of posterity. For the benefit of scholars and fans alike, I will use this space on The Outlet, on a semi-regular basis, to release a selection of my correspondence and other papers. Enjoy. (Universities interested in acquiring the complete Judson Merrill archive should contact me through my web site.)

To Whom it May Concern,

My literary noir speculative romance novel Breath of Bread is about a man caught between the career he loves, the woman he lusts after, the job he left behind, the family he cannot abandon, another woman whom he has conflicting feelings for, the debts that plague him, the professional competitors who will do anything to stop him (and also happen to be members of the family he cannot abandon), a third woman he had this one thing with one time, and the government that has saddled him with a tax code too onerous for his small business.

Breath of Bread creates a Jonathan Franzen-like world where, as in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, a man is driven by professional and romantic relationships to confront his own hellish reality. And, like Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, the comedy of business is black indeed. Also, if you like Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, it’s sort of like that. Crossed with Nora Ephron’s hit movie You’ve Got Mail, which isn’t a book but is pretty literary since it’s about writing letters.

Jerry Van Peebles lives in New York City, a captain of finance and happily estranged from his dysfunctional family. Until the financial crisis leaves him unemployed and penniless! In desperate need of new career, Jerry returns to his hometown and opens a small bakery, determined to perfect his family’s ancient cinnamon raisin bread recipe.

But things get complicated when, for reasons of their own, Jerry’s glue-sniffing dad, coupon-clipping mom, and agoraphobic, webcam-pornstar sister all open bakeries of their own. Complicating things further, is the presence of Martha, Jerry’s old boss and queen of leveraged buyouts. Complicatedly, she arrives in town to help a national baked goods conglomerate acquire the Van Peebles cinnamon raisin recipe.

Will Jerry sell out? Will one of the other family members? Will Jerry ask his salesgirl to marry him? Does he maybe miss his old job? The answers to all these questions await in Breath of Bread. (But also, if you think there are other, more saleable answers to these questions, I’m totally open to that.)

My work has previously appeared in Rabbit Punch and The Southwest Eastern Oklahoma Review. I am legally obligated to use this space to state that I do not have nor have ever had any contact with or connection to Kurt Vonnegut or the Kurt Vonnegut estate. Breath of Bread is my fourth novel and draws heavily on my own experience having a family and eating toast.

Please find the first chapter attached as a PDF. If you’re interested in the book, I would be happy to send you the rest of the manuscript.

If you’re not interested, please know that chapter one is not the strongest part of the book. Chapter four, though, is probably my favorite chapter not just from this book, but from any book, so keep that in mind when drafting your response.

Thank you,
Judson Merrill

PS — In case that whole thing about chapter four was too much of a tease I’m going to go ahead and mail you the complete manuscript.

This will give me the chance to share with you my alternate ending. Jerry, in love with Martha and desperate to win her affection, visits her at a giant baking factory and, blinded by tears, falls into the machine that cores the donuts. Is he horribly mutilated? Does he die? Does he maybe miss his old job?

I’ve printed these alterna-chapters on yellow paper so you don’t confuse the two drafts. Also, to explain Martha and Jerry’s romance, I’ve inserted (also on yellow paper) new scenes after chapters three, eight, and eleven. Likewise, if you are going to read what I call “Draft Saffron” please do not read chapters three and twelve. They contain some contradictory/confusing scenes. For your convenience I’ve printed those chapters on teal paper. Also, there’s a pretty killer sex scene in chapter four and I’ve printed that on rose-colored paper in case you like to skip ahead to those bits.


* * *

–Judson Merrill lives and writes in Brooklyn. Some of his work, including his e-novella The Pool, can be found at judsonmerrill.com.

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