It's struck me that over the last couple of days, a few no doubt kindly and well-meaning authors have sent me their words of wisdom about their long journeys of writerly suffering followed by (oh! what a surprise!) the joy of commercial discovery by the publisher of their dreams. I imagine these classic and rather cliched tales of rags to riches are offered in the spirit of encouragement. Shame then that they only come over as condescending and banal.
I mean: do these good people imagine that I have not heard these tales before? (Oh Lord, countless, countless times, and no they don't help. Not one jot). It may come as a complete shock to an author's delicate constitution, but I do actually attend writers' conferences, speak to fellow writers, belong to an extremely high-quality but as yet commercially unpublished writers' group (http://www.guildfordwriters.net) and am a regular contributor to an equally high quality writers' site (http://www.writewords.org.uk). Ye gods and wash my mouth out with Carbolic - but I almost sound like a professional myself there. (For which apologies: I would never want that dubious label attached to my t-shirt ...)
So forgive me if I don't fall down in gratitude and throw my pen at your authorial feet. In fact, my advice to authors is this: if you do have a typical writer rags-to-riches tale that you are desperate for the world outside to hear, take the nearest sewing kit and use it accordingly to button the proverbial lip. We've all heard it before and we're deeply, deeply not interested. It might have been interesting and useful the first ten times (though I have my doubts even about that ...), but now I'm afraid your market has moved on. I suggest you might be wise to move with it. Find another angle. As they say.
In fact, dear author, I have news of my own, which may come as a complete surprise to you, so I hope you're sitting down and within easy reach of the nearest whisky bottle: hush my mouth, but it may even be that your own commercially published status does not come from the fact that your book has any intrinsic merits or quality of its own, but purely because it is deemed marketable in the current climate. Oh, my dear, pass the smelling salts, do ...! After all, the fact remains that our bookshops are stuffed with crap (some of which even wins awards - take the utterly unreadable Booker Prize shortlist of the last two years, for instance - though I do admit that the shortlist with Morrall on was one hot cookie) - and, oh dear me, your own book may well fall into that category. The fact is that commercial publication is nothing to do with quality and everything to do with luck.
In fact, if poor old "A Dangerous Man" ever struggles its way out of the Flame Pit of Despair (thanks again for the phrase, Jonathan ...) into the cold light of day, it will itself be my first, extremely small (and probably only) commercially published novel. It will be in that position (if it ever is) entirely due to luck. And if I ever once start to bore people with the completely uninteresting tale of how it got there, blah, blah, blah, I fully expect to be beaten to death with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. In fact, I shall probably do it myself, to save you all the effort. Hey, but what a way to go ...
Which brings me to a proposed punishment for any more authors who try to force their tales of woe and joy upon us benighted writers: every time their deeply dull and unhelpful story is told, they have to lose a finger. With no appeals. Hah! Bet that stops 'em. Three cheers for Writer Power!
Advice over. Phew.
The rest of my day has been spent battling with the Cold From Hell (which comes with special stomach side effects - what joy!). The plus point of this meant I could skip church without too much residual guilt, so Lord H had to go on his own and do Server duties. Apparently the Serving team managed to fool the visiting low-church vicar into doing lots of fun high-church stuff, including incense, without him realising that we don't always do it like that. Never say that the High Church regulars don't have some fun at the expense of their Lower (and of course much-loved ...) brethren. Even though the UK press always reports it the other way round. Sigh ... Apparently today's vestry gossip has been the upcoming installation of the new vicar at the end of January, which will be a bells 'n' smells party & lunch, to which all the local church Dames (and we suspect some of their Principal Boys - cue such phrases as: what a charming young man? Is he a relation? No, we didn't think so either ...) will be invited.
And, thank God, Lord H cooked today's lamb joint. Which meant it was edible for the first time in what seems ages. He had to leave the kitchen afterwards though, as I spent my usual ten minutes tearing off the rest of the meat from the bone, sucking up the marrow and laughing maniacally. Just like the home life of our own dear Queen ... Anyway, it's good for colds.
Tonight, I still have to ring mother (argh!) and try to sound normal, if ill. But that will cheer her up - she does so love a sick child. It takes her back to the good old days when she had some modicum of control over me. Aha! Then, I'm going to slump like a couch potato and wait for the Great White Hunter. My, but Sundays are fun.
Oh, and I've just finished reading Paul Auster's "The New York Trilogy". Bloody genius in my opinion. He takes the detective format and rips it apart to make something wild and literary and incredibly strange and human. It's like opening a box of Black Magic and finding it full of the utterly orgasmic Lindor milk chocolates instead. Read it. You won't regret it. He is soooo on my list of good authors now. Hey, there's a novelty!
This week's haiku (in honour of Lord H) is:
Home is for coffee.
Abroad, you taste the wild sky
and, smiling, choose tea.
Today's nice things:
1. Not going to church
2. Reading the bloody brilliant Auster
3. Eating lamb marrow.