Excerpt from a query letter Neil Hummasti sent to a literary agent in an unsuccessful attempt at finding representation for Forty Ways to Square a Circle:
I have completed a 95,000 word novel called Forty Ways to Square a Circle. Employing both pathos and humor, the novel recounts the grand crisis of Casey Merriman’s life. The year is 1996, and the school where Merriman labors is about to go technology-mad. On the home front, Merriman is responsible for the care of an elderly aunt who battles a growing dementia. The two competing derangements will plunge him into turbulent descent. Conflicts between old and new, rational and irrational, propel the hero toward a bizarre but redemptive climax.
The pivotal character of Dilly is patterned after an elderly relative whose care ultimately fell to me. Given the family connection, I have attempted to depict her with sympathy and respect. Humor is exploited to temper the daily tragedies of her decline. The personalities that haunt the school are fictional but inevitably reflect my experience as a teacher. My principal literary antecedent is Dante, but fear not; he will not make a nuisance of himself. Those unacquainted with his old Comedy will never even know he is around. I promise.
To Merriman’s sluggish metamorphosis—and to the Lethe mists that fog the old aunt’s wits—add the following ingredients: a fiery female teacher who (consciously or un-) keeps every ball rolling, a semantically-challenged administrator, a lovesick science instructor whose awkward romantic inclinations spark a most improbable love triangle, a coach who imagines himself sufficiently modern but is afflicted with a Neanderthal sensitivity. And voila! Just the satirical elements needed to keep woe at bay. Uplifting and sad; tragic and comic; deeply thoughtful, yet playful. I think it works.