I have in a past entry or two alluded to ‘my novel’. And given then every fart and his dog has written ‘a novel’ and, furthermore, thinks it is quite possibly the best work of art since God took a knife to Adam to get at that a spare rib and produce Eve, I cannot blame you for assuming that my allusion or two are just a writer’s wholly uncritical conceit and unabashed egocentricity.
All artists, as we all know, are utterly convinced that the whole world is just fascinated to hear every last detail about every time he or she breaks wind (though, sadly, it is usually he) and are utterly baffled that so far no cunt has the faintest clue as to who he or she is.
I wrote ‘my novel’ (the inverted commas are for my sake not yours) in two spates, that is two blocks of work, sitting down every week twice a week for six or seven hours each time of solid writing, each spate about two or three months, and finished it a few years ago.
Once I had finished for a year or two (or three or four£ I, rather half-heartedly, tried to find an agent (subscribing to the conventional and sensible advice that 1) publishers are only interested in what might sell, 2) agents are your best bet as they will only take on what they think will interest a publisher. So if an agent agrees to represent you, you might have a sporting chance of being published. Funnily enough, I had no luck at all. All the agents I wrote to after looking up their name in the Artists And Writers’ Yearbook all asked you to submit a chapter or two of your novel and a synopsis.
Well, that left me pretty much high and dry.
You see the trouble was — and is — that given the nature of ‘my novel’, what it is and what I tried to do, providing a ‘synopsis’ was pretty much impossible. You’ll perhaps understand that point rather better if I repeat Woody Allen’s joke about speed reading: he said he had taken a course in speed reading and would recommend it. It was so good, he said, that he finished Tolstoy’s War And Peace in just under an hour. The novel, he added, was about Russia.
I then heard of Lulu and I did all the necessary (uploading Microsoft Word files and had several copies printed. (Lulu and similar enterprises such as CreateSpace take the vanity, bullshit and profits out of vanity publishing by doing nothing but print your book, printing however many or however few you want.) It was not the first novel I had written, but it was the first of which I was — and am — proud. The first was bollocks, though it could still be resurrected, and the second wasn’t very long and I wasn’t as aware then as I am now of — well, I don’t know how to put it without sounding like a dickhead, so I shan’t put it all quite yet (but I’m alluding to words, their use beyond ‘meaning’, their sound and their baggage, what I like to call ‘their import’).
With my mention of Woody Allen and his speed-reading course, you either get my point or you don’t, but I don’t really want to tell you more. I shall however — and this is, in fact, relevant — describe a short email exchange I had a few years ago with a former — well, there’s only one way to put it, although in many ways it’s misleading — former girlfriend, a Frenchwoman, and bit actress and TV presenter who (so she told me and so my researching on the net told me) became some kind of cultural attache at the French embassy in Tokyo.
While we were still ‘together’ (the inverted commas are also relevant in as far as in the few months we were ‘together’ I saw her for about a total of three and a bit weeks in an association — I can’t but it better than that — of about nine or ten months, if that. And I must here be honest here and confess that I rather fell for her, and although she must rather have liked me, didn’t actually fall for me — perhaps she was rather taken with the naive and when she eventually gave me the heave-ho I wasn’t too chuffed) I had sent her to read a short novella, which might well have been a long story I had written and she was reasonably encouraging.
That was about 23 years ago.
After having no success at all in finding an agent who could take my hand and lead me to a publisher, I thought that, given Rozenn’s previously encouraging opinion of my previous writing, if she like I might get an in from another direction. She, however, now in her early 50s, the centre of many artistic and cultural networks, was, understandably, a tad reluctant to get involved in any way with a chap she had already written off as a no-hoper. But we did exchange emails. Would you, I asked, be willing to read a short novel I had written? What, she replied, was it about? Well, I wrote, that’s a little difficult to say. Well, try, she insisted. The trouble was, I wrote, that I found it very difficult, if not quite impossible, to sum up in a few short sentences what it had taken me more than 60,000 words to convey. And, I added, if despite that she was interested in reading it and giving me her opinion, fine. If, on the other hand, she wasn’t, that was fine too. She wasn’t and that was the last I heard.
Then a colleague and friend alerted me to CreateSpace which has some kind of link-up with Amazon. CreateSpace do the same as Lulu, which is to print on demand. Unlike all the bullshit ‘vanity company’ publishers, they don’t promise to get ‘your book reviewed’ by the national and regional papers. They just print up on demand however many copies you might want.
I went down that route, and that brings me to my offer.
. . .
The usual comparison I quote is that of a cook, a meal he or she has cooked and a lack of folk actually to eat it. It must be quite awful to cook a meal but then find there is no one to serve it up to. So you might understand my disappointment at having written my bloody novel and finding there’s no one to read it. Which is where you come in if you want to.
This is my offer: should you enjoy reading, and should you like to like to read my novel, simply send my your address and I shall, courtesy of Amazon, send you a copy. It will cost you nothing. You won’t have to buy it and you won’t have to pay for delivery. In fact, you won’t have to pay for anything. I simply hope that you enjoy reading it. However.
. . .
We are always advised, in a rather different context, not to judge a book by its cover. And if you take up my offer I should like to advise you to assume nothing about ‘my novel’. Don’t go by the cover, the blurb on the back page or anything. It is not a ‘difficult’ book to read, but nor is it written in the way many of the other novels you have read is written. )
The style might strike you a being a bit different. (If you like verse, it might help, but even saying that might well put off people who shouldn’t be put off, so perhaps I should better not mention it.)
But I do stand by it. I — who, admittedly, wrote the bloody thing — think (in that very British way) that it isn’t half bad. Rather good, in fact. I should add that I decided to write this blog entry and make my offer after, yet again, dipping into parts of ‘my novel’ (note the inverted commas — I do hope you will agree that I am not an egomaniac) and decided that it isn’t, in it’s own very distinct way, not just quite good, but very, very good. Trouble is that, as the saying goes, we all like the smell of our own farts.
So that’s where you come in.
But one caveat: as the cliche goes it’s always ‘horses for courses’ and what I have written might not, perhaps, be your course. You might want Conan Doyle, or Penelope Fitzgerald, or Brett Eason Ellis, or whoever is your favourite. But if you feel this might be your course, email me your name and address and a free, gratis copy will be on its way sooner than you can say ‘Good Lord, the man’s a genius’. And I mean anywhere in the world. We don’t cook just for the hell of it, you know. At least I don’t. And let me stress: this offer is open to everyone wherever you live. I carry the cost, you don't.
PS Several people have read it so far. Comments were: (from my 80-year-old aunt) ‘How did you know women so well?’ From my sister (who I don’t think finished reading it) ‘Nothing happens.’ From my (we’re told schizophrenic brother) ‘I burst into tears when to the final line’. From an acquaintance (an actor, once Captain Birdseye, now — occasionally — Bert Horrobin on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers) ‘Have you thought of turning it into a play?’
None of those comments was particularly encouraging. And no one, but no one, cottoned onto anything I was trying to do. Which means either they were all thick, or it wasn’t as well-written as it might have been. Trouble is that, after reading much of it tonight, I would only change a word here and a comma there. So you be my judge. It won’t cost you a penny, which must be some kind of incentive.
Here is the cover and title: make of it what you will.
You’ll be entirely wrong. You can find out more about it here.