Do you reach out? Many people use this North American phrase as a synonym for ‘talk to’. I enjoy greatly the inventiveness of US English, but this one feels weirder than many others. ‘I’m reaching out to you’ (a nice linguistic extension of ‘I’m getting in touch’, when they mean ‘I’m talking to you’) produces an interesting physical image, of stretching out a hand, but it’s also loaded with the theatrical imagery of mediation and supplication. Thus it sounds ridiculously formal, disassociated from reality, when all you need to hear is ‘I’d like to talk to you’. Is it used so commonly now because ‘reach out’ feels less personally involving than ‘speak to’? I met a few US contacts recently at the Independent Publishers’ Guild meeting, and they were all reaching out to me afterwards, in a strictly business sense. I responded in kind, I didn’t laugh. I also restrained myself from dramatizing the moment with a Four Tops rendition.
Next week is the London Book Fair, the biggest publishing event in Britain, where publishers and literary agents and authors and illustrators and translators and printers and everyone else who knows them congregate for three days in Olympia to sell each other books, in the sense of books as properties, word-hoards to sell to the public. They will also be reaching out to each other, and I believe the drinks parties in the evening will encourage this. I am going there to try to make Handheld Press’s books better known (including this one), to talk to publishers and agents from outside the UK about their books, and to wander around for three days gawping at the vastness of the publishing industry in its shiny corporate glory. The Independent Publishers’ Guild stand is no. 6E70, and I will be returning to it periodically, as the panting hart retires to rest, and have a quiet drink of water before plunging back into the fray. If I had heeled shoes I would not be wearing them, but I will be wearing The Frock.
The Akeing Heart came out last week (tan-taraaaa!), and thus ends many months of work. It’s a sad truth that by the time a book arrives in bookshops (thank you, John Sandoe Books and Gay’s The Word, early adopters of Akeing), its author will see this as the birth of their baby, but the publisher, as midwife, is already turning away to the next one that needs her attention. Every midwife loves the baby they have helped bring into the world, but the publisher with marketing staff is able to spread the love much more widely, and for longer after the launch. The other problem is that the Next Book has an irresistible allure. I’m nurturing three or four new books as well as chasing down a couple of others, so when a book that has had my full attention for months is finally out there, waving cheerily from bookshop windows, the other projects clamour for my attention even louder. Nonetheless, it is still a very proud feeling to see the sales figures clicking ever upwards, and know that it’s being appreciated as much as I have, all these past months.
Paying it forward
As well as all the publishing, I do also still read books myself, for pleasure. Many of these I write about on my own site, and occasionally on the Vulpes Libris Facebook page whence we moved last year when the working patterns of our book reviewing collective changed. These are the books I’m looking forward to getting stuck into.
- Madeline Miller’s Circe, to be published in the next week or so, which I have on order at Waterstone’s. Her first novel, The Song of Achilles, was a gamechanger in historical fiction, and a perfect, mesmerising debut.
- Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Music at Long Verney, a posthumous collection of her stories published in the US in 2001, found in Brighton Books after I’d been hoping to spot a copy for years, but had forgotten the title.
- Mollie Preston (ed.) Anne Hughes. Her Boke, a most peculiar and possibly fake diary of a late 18th-century countrywoman, originally published in 1937 and republished by the Folio Society in 1981. Found in Brighton Books, barely read, so I hope to get further into it than its earlier owner did.
- Laline Paull, The Bees, hoping very much that this will not fall into the anthropomorphizing trap of Duncton Wood (mole sex, anyone?), but will rise to Watership Down heights of telling timeless stories about life in animal (insect) terms. Probably bought in Bath.
- Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing, a copy I found second-hand after Christmas, which I want to read now because it’s been mentioned several times recently in social media chat as a political manifesto that needs to be reread and acted on. So I shall. I’m pretty sure it’s about how to recognise how that suppression works, and how to stop it.
Carry On and Keep Reading. And do Reach Out.
3 April 2018