> Journal And News
Sunday, 16 May 2010
It's always a bit of a nail-biting time, the moment a manuscript turns from a file on your desktop to a real book with a cover, landing on the doormats of reviewers and on bookshelves in shops, a barcode on its arse, an ISBN number on its opening page. It's been years in the making - an editor's been over it five times, and each time you said, 'Enough already. It's time to let it go.' Yet you want to edit it again now. Just one more time. Just one more time, please? Too late. There's nothing to do. People are reading it and your job as a writer is over.
On the day that Sixteen Shades of Crazy
was released, Super Thursday
as my publisher Blue Door
described it, I was at a conference at Swansea University arranged by The First Choice Project, an initiative exploring creative approaches with young people excluded from conventional education. I gave a speech about my own experiences and acted as rapporteur, which took my mind off what was happening in the university bookshop downstairs; the shop manager arranging a display of my new and old books on a perspex rise. At the end of the day I did a signing there. When it came to scribbling my name I wondered if I was spelling it correctly. It seemed like such a long time since I'd sat at a Waterstones table, sharpie in hand. 'Would you like me to write anything in particular?' In my head I did a quick calculation. Amazing! It had only been three years since Dial M for Merthyr
was published. Funny how spending the best part of your life in front of a keyboard seems to distort time. The books were on a 3 for 2 deal and some of the delegates bought three copies each. I think that's why I sold out.
Now I sit in my attic, trying to concentrate on the novel-in-progress, but, at the end of each afternoon torture myself by typing the title of the book into search engines, eyes peeled for newly published reviews. I do it the way you might watch a horror film, my hands covering my face. Fortunately I've only found one, and that was favourable. I tell myself I'll have grown bored of the pursuit by the time the bad ones materialise! Actually, that isn't too far from the truth. Publication, by it's very nature, teaches you not to dwell on old work. There will be one chance to celebrate, at the Hay Festival at the end of the month where the book will be officially christened. (Sorry, launched. The comparisons between publication and childbirth is ubiquitous but I'll try not to do it again - I'm sure that publishing a book is actually nothing like giving birth.) It's time for me to indulge in my pre-launch tradition, the purchasing of a new little black dress for the occasion. And then, afterwards, back to the blank page.
If you've read Sixteen Shades of Crazy
already and you're looking for your next literary adventure, you'd do a lot worse than get hold of Nuala Ni Chonchuir's You
. This is a debut novel from the established Irish short story writer and poet about a 10-year-old girl who lives with her seperated mother and two brothers. Set against the semi-urban backdrop of the River Liffey in 1980, the story unfolds through the narrator's observations and interactions and her niave interpretations of adult conversations and behaviour. Heartbreaking, enchanting and incredibly tense. The little girl's voice is pitch perfect. If it's short stories you're after you'll find some of the best I've ever read in Alex Epstein's Blue Has No South
. This is Epstein's first collection to be published in English. Previously his prose has been hailed by Israeli critics as reminiscent of Borges and Kafka. Populated by wounded angels, chess players, and lovers young and old, his tales are set in airports, the sites of legends and countries that no longer exist. The one-hundred-and-thirty-one stories here truly revel in the possibility of a single sentence and are my favourite ever, ever. Small is beautiful. Yes it is.
Posted at 09:15 |
Add Comment (1)