(I discovered this piece in the most recent edition of Write, the magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada. it appears here with the permission of the author….)
The Strange Truth: The Author Reviews Her Own Book
By M.A.C. Farrant
IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO when book writers, desperate for an author profile or a scant review, or for any kind of media attention whatsoever, resorted to a series of bizarre tactics to achieve their ends. Who could forget the Slasher Poets? I may be making this up, but don’t you remember them? They razor-bladed haikus onto their chests and thighs.
During that era of flagrant self-promotion many writers costumed themselves for book launches. Liturgical robes appeared, and pirate boots. One woman wore a bear costume, lunging at the audience when the reading was over, signing her novel with a giant crayon stuck in her furry fist. That got attention.
After that a romance writer ripped open the bodice of her eighteenth century gown on national TV and sold, as a result, seven copies of her book. A historical novelist topped that by having a beard implant thus becoming the Bearded Lady Novelist, renowned, she claimed, on three continents.
Some of us were more modest. We loaded boxes of our books into car trunks and headed off on a Jack Kerouac fantasy. Next stop: the abandoned Zen Motel in Mesa, Arizona where we filmed ourselves reciting by the light of an emptied wine bottle.
Would I make this stuff up?
IT’S TRUE THAT SOME OF US, readers and writers alike, may have wondered where all this attention-seeking was heading? How much more inventive could self-promotion become?
Well, guess what? I am about to review my own book.
It’s a matter of necessity. Because the book culture as we’ve known it seems to be decaying beneath our busy finger tips. Because books have become a business, a product, a winning horse, a magic carpet ride to stardom for a few lucky writers and their publishers and as a consequence many of us have had to become even more imaginative in our bids to garner attention.
Who can argue with writer Eduardo Galeano’s comment that culture has been reduced to a “brilliant global entertainment enterprise”? One day we’ll turn to the back pages of our favourite tabloid and there, beside the ads for steroids and massage parlours, we’ll find ads for our poetry and experimental fiction – books as clandestine traffickers of thought; books as containers of exquisite language; books as seedy pleasure.
And book reviews? They’ve gone the way of the typewriter; there aren’t many of them around any more. Review pages in newspapers and magazines have been steadily shrinking. Any way you slice it the formerly fat book review pie has got way small. It’s pretty much crumbs now.
WHICH IS WHY a woman who basically spends her life thinking, looking, writing, and reading and is not currently dressed as a pumpkin or a nun is about to give her own book one long mention. Add writer as “hustling” to the above list.
Times, as they often do, change and this is why I wrote my book. The title is “The Strange Truth About Us” and it’s a three-part work of prose fragments, snippets, questions, speculations, meditations, and mini-stories about the changing times we are all living through – you, me, and the old guy working at the local café to supplement his pension.
Some of the book is funny, some of it not so much. Some of it’s about the future which we all know does not exist but still can’t help fearing.
In any case, I hope you love the cover. It’s a painting of an empty freeway on a sunny day, surely a most beautiful image. The artist is Gertrude Pacific of Sechelt, B.C. The book was published in October, 2011 by Talonbooks of Vancouver and was edited by Karl Siegler, a literary hero, a keeper of the flame.
Appeared in the Fall, 2012 issue of Write – the Magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada. An earlier version appeared in the Vancouver Sun, April 2012.
M.A.C. Farrant has written over a dozen books of fiction, non-fiction and memoir. Her play, My Turquoise Years, will premiere with the Arts Club Theatre, Granville Island stage, Vancouver, B.C. April 4 – May 4, 2013.
PS (Note from me, Barbara) to Canadian writers:
The Writers’ Union is working like stink on your behalf. If you are not already a member, please check out the website:
and consider joining. Meanwhile good luck to us all!
(…now I’m off to get my Cinderella costume out of mothballs.)