Andy Worthington: And Abdur Rahim Muslim Dost, the Afghan [prisoner] poet, wrote 25,000 lines of poetry, much of it scratched onto Styrofoam cups and passed from cell to cell?
Marc Falkoff (editor of Poems from Guantanamo): Yes.
So being able to write today using a pen or computer, even though writing is a big pain and isn't going well, I'm glad. There was one former POW who once said, "A good day is one on which the lock is on the INSIDE of the door."
Here's one of Dost's poems that made it into the anthology:Cup Poem I
However, because the author was so young when imprisoned, he retains few vivid memories about the camp and its inhabitants. Most of the book is about the rest of his life.
The authorâ€™s question was: Did I think he could get an agent for the book? It was, after all, a memoir by a Holocaust survivor. Life stories donâ€™t get any more dramatic than that.
My research turned up these surprising (to me) facts: Holocaust memoirs are â€œa dime a dozen.â€ Agents, publishers and readers donâ€™t buy such books out of respect for the survivors. They snap them up only if such memoirs are very detailed and shocking and revelatory, and if the book centers on the camp experience. Agents and publishers want THAT so badly that they will seize upon phony Holocaust memoirs cooked up according to that recipe.
Very carefully and politely I told the author my crushing conclusion: If he wanted to see his memoir in print, he should self-publish. He wouldnâ€™t stoop to that. Canâ€™t blame him. But since that time, someone has tried to establish a Holocaust-memoir vanity-publishing business to make themselves some money from these dime-a-dozen manuscripts. Iâ€™m not kidding.
And you want an agent for that memoir you wrote about your relative with Alzheimerâ€™s? Your broken hip? Your infertility treatments? Save time and effort: Publish it yourself.