The Zen of Authordom

I was pleased to see that this Sunday’s Toronto Star ran an excerpt from my Epilogue, which consists of Awful Warnings to new authors about the terrible things that will happen to them when their book is published. My piece is very cynical, and outsiders to the book world find it very funny, and totally unrealistic. Interestingly, the Star’s Insight Editor takes a different view. Under the title “Authors, be warned . . .” his subtitle runs “Book publisher covers a glorious CanLit career in a new memoir, including bang-on author advice.”

“Bang-on”? My cynical description of all of the possible review horrors seems to Dan Smith to be “bang-on”? And Dan was the Star’s Book Review editor for over a decade. Very interesting.

One of the good things in an author’s life is that, if you are very lucky, your book may produce fascinating new information from readers. For example, Ralph Hancox, who worked with Robertson Davies at the Peterborough Examiner, elaborates on my line about the great leap forward in Davies’ work to Fifth Business:

“I asked him,” writes Ralph from Victoria, “what had brought about the change . . . his study of the works of Freud, Jung?”
“No,” he said. “I could not have written such material before my mother and my father had died. I would have
been a sorry outcast to them both.”

We all shake our head at the thought of Davies, aged 57 when the book came out, until that point being constrained by what his parents would think.  And then I realize that at 67, I (as my W.O. Mitchell chapter reveals) am still subject to what my 98-year-old mother will say when she encounters “bad language” in my book.

So you’ll find me chickening out of a Bill Mitchell line by saying “. . . well, let’s just say the term Bill used resembled ‘sock-kickers.’” There’s room for a really useful Ph.D. Thesis here. And what, dear reader, would you do?

One of the bad things in an author’s life is that eagerly-awaited reviews don’t appear because book review editors plead that they don’t have enough space to run all the reviews they have. This produces unworthy thoughts in unworthy authors. Thus my first reaction, on hearing that the authorized biography of Steve Jobs has been rushed through to come out late in October, was to lament the fact that the line-up for review space had just got more crowded, dammit. I will have to try for a more zen-like approach to this author business.

— Doug Gibson

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One comment on “The Zen of Authordom

  1. […] interesting “on the other side of the mirror” and finding comfort in his own words of warning to authors. He loves to tell amusing stories but between laughs dropped some grains of hard truth into his […]

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