Ten years ago, as a lost liberal arts graduate in New York City, I did what many of my kind have felt compelled to do:

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How 'Bout 'The Lengthy Avenue to My House'? No?

My most felicitous phrase lives on, with no royalties attached.

Ten years ago, as a lost liberal arts graduate in New York City, I did what many of my kind have felt compelled to do: applied for a job as an editorial assistant at a publishing house. Sure, it meant being a secretary, but you were a "literary" secretary. The place where I took this notion farthest was W.W. Norton. Two very nice editors interviewed me and sent me home with a manuscript, asking me to critique it, write some jacket copy, and come up with a title. The book was by a Wyoming writer named Geoffrey O'Gara. He'd spent a year traveling across the country, following the routes described in a Depression-era series of travel guides, searching (as I wrote in my jacket blurb) "for the peculiarly American notion of home." At the time, I didn't know what a tired device this whole retracing-the-steps business was. Inspired by O'Gara's prose, I came to realize that I didn't want to be an editorial assistant after all. I wanted to be a writer. I explained this to my now very irritated editors and that was the end of it. I went on to work as a secretary for a temp agency. However, many months later, I discovered that O'Gara's book had come out—with my unpaid-for jacket copy in place, along with the title I had chosen: A Long Road Home. These were the first words I had ever published, and I felt flattered, not abused. However, with time, a kernel of resentment has grown within me. For in the decade since O'Gara's volume appeared, I have noticed a startling number of books bearing variations, or even outright copies, of my title. Indeed this trend has accelerated in recent years, extending across genres and geography, touching the highest reaches of the best-seller lists. What follows is just a partial list of such copycat works, along with a description of the "themes" that supposedly gave rise to their titles. Read on and judge for yourself whether I have been adequately compensated for my contribution to the world of letters. The Long Road Home by Danielle Steele, Dell (New York: 1999). In Ms. Steele's latest blockbuster, a beautiful heroine, Gabriella Harrison, suffers through years of childhood abuse at the hands of her psychotic mother and alcoholic father before being abandoned to a convent, where she has a harrowing affair with a handsome young priest (whose child she miscarries), and is later victimized by a con man who seduces, robs, and beats her. Resolving to find her way "home," she finally makes peace with her past and also meets a nice young doctor who falls in love with her. The Long Road Home by Eric Trethewey, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, Nova Scotia: 1994). Known as the most gifted and important poet to come out of the Maritimes since Alden Now-lan, Trethewey explores memory and the search for home. He travels both to and from the landscape of home, looking for it "in places that you reach/by driving narrow roads." The Long Road Home by Lori Wick, Harvest House (Eugene: 1997). In this turn-of-the-century drama, handsome young pastor Paul Cameron, distraught at the death of his new bride, Corrine, and angry with God, leaves his church and flees to a logging camp deep in the north woods of Wisconsin. But when a falling tree crushes his legs, Paul can run no further. He is nursed back to health, and then some, by his caretaker, Abigail Finlayson. "I chose a rough road, Gram," he tells his grandmother, "but Abby was waiting at the end of it." The Road Home by Jim Harrison, Atlantic Monthly Press (Boston: 1998). The follow-up to Harrison's mammoth bestseller Dalva of 10 years ago, this sprawling, multigenerational novel describes Dalva's return to Nebraska to search for the son she gave up for adoption 30 years before. They find each other and before she dies, he gives her a last kiss goodbye on a road. The Road Home by Eliza Thomas, Algonquin Books (Chapel Hill: 1997). After years of "temporary" jobs and apartments, the single, fortysomething author abandons Boston for rural Vermont where, in a quest that is as much spiritual as practical, she painstakingly converts a ramshackle cabin into a place that she can call home. She also adopts a daughter and gets design help from her "friend," Julian. The Road Home by Joel Rosenberg, Penguin Books (New York: 1995). The seventh novel

in Rosenberg's "Guardians of the Flame" series finds young Jason Cullinane—swordsman, baron, and the son of the Warrior, Karl Cullinane—setting off on the road from Ehvenor along with Ahira the dwarf and their mysterious ally, Toryn of the Slavers' Guild, on a mission to stop Mikyn, who was seeking to wipe out all slavers singlehandedly while keeping the legend of the Warrior alive. In the final chapter, "Home Again," they come back, with the help of the dragon Ellegon. Dark Road Home by Karen Harper, Signet (New York: 1996). High-powered attorney Brooke Benton, looking to escape a stalker, flees to the Amish community of Maplecreek to run a quilt shop, but she is soon drawn into the investigation of a hit-and-run killing. In the car chase that serves as the book's climax, Brooke and the Amish man who has become her lover drive without their headlights on. The Rough Road Home edited by Robert Gingher, University of North Carolina Press (Raleigh: 1992). This anthology of 22 short stories by North Carolina writers—including Maya Angelou, Jill McCorkle, and Reynolds Price—testifies to the powerful hold that the Tar Heel state retains over those who grew up there, and conclusively demonstrates that 22 residents have at one time thought about something besides basketball. A Tender Road Home: The Story of How God Healed a Marriage Crippled by Anger and Abuse by Paul and Susie Luchsinger, Broadman & Holman (Nashville: 1997). National rodeo champion Paul Luchsinger and his wife, Susie, a country singer and sister of Reba McEntire, have a seemingly storybook marriage. But in reality, their domestic life is scarred by Paul's violent temper and obsession with control. Finally, after a year of spiritual counseling in Seattle in 1996, they are able to find peace, at least long enough to write the book. The Long Hard Road out of Hell by Marilyn Manson, HarperCollins (New York: 1998). The celebrated musician describes his escape from an oppressive Catholic childhood in suburban Ohio to a liberating career of face painting, onstage masturbation, and urinating on deaf girls. Mark D. Fefer is a staff writer for 'Seattle Weekly.'

 
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