Who in their right mind would want to be a writer or, at least, attempt to make a living from it? Is it true that Amazon stocks over 3million books? And although many are listed as ‘The Best Seller’ how many of these actually are? I think I’ve made this point before. Beginning to repeat myself. Beginning? So just how many books are in circulation and how many writers are there, setting aside the celebs and what is known as chick-lit, from one book authors to forty book authors? My niece e-mailed my sister from America to say she has found my books in a bookshop there! That is the very first indication that any of them have been available other than through Amazon. Let’s keep fingers crossed that they take off, even in a moderately successful way. What brought on this speculation is reading the book reviews in the Kultur section of the S.T. I’ve only just started to go through the pile, maybe half a dozen, and already I’ve found six or seven I would like to have but (a) there isn’t the money and (b) there is no more room in this house for more books. As it is they’re piling up on top of the piano, and a short while back Douglas, for charity, got rid of two big boxes full, mostly chic-lit and romance that holiday visitors have left.
When I say who would want to be a writer, something else was brought to mind reading the review of a biography “Under A Canvas Sky” of Mervyn Peake by his daughter Clare and what caught my attention particularly was this – ‘In 1957 everything changed. As Clare remembers it, it happened in a single day. Mervyn had written a play called The Wit To Woo, which was put on at the Arts Theatre. The first night seemed to go well, but next morning’s reviews were disastrous, and when he read them he collapsed, shaking uncontrollably …. For the next twelve years until his death he was in and out of hospitals but never recovered.’
The exact same thing happened to me in the exact same theatre but, fortunately, I didn’t react to the critics’ venom as badly as he. Later I had another play produced in London, at The Old Vic, and the critics were just as diabolical there. This time the reason for their venom was obvious: the play dealt with an Irish subject and Louis Mountbatten had just been murdered by the IRA so anything Irish was verboten. What a furore it created. This time the criticisms definitely did have an effect. I didn’t write another word for the next two years. I found it impossible to even contemplate it.
Though I’ve heard of the Gormenghast trilogy I’ve never read any of Peake’s work. Maybe I should, but there are so many many books to read and that is the problem of wanting to be a writer.