Tuesday, August 7, 2007

One More Month...

I happened to glance at the calendar on the way to bed and noticed that it's now August 7th. Very early on August 7th, but the 7th nonetheless. Therefore just one month away from the pub date of Shock and Awe--and I'm now so savvy about matters literary that I no longer think a 'pub date' is meeting someone in a bar for a pint of John Courage.

For those who haven't been through the process before, I've got to tell you that the lead-up to publication is rather odd. There's all sorts of hurry and consultation in the editing and copyediting phase, and the book gets sent off to printing in a bit of a rush...

But then? Well, not all that much goes on while the book is at the printers. There's some discussion of publicity plans, etc., but without printed matter in hand, not much really happens. Somewhere out there ink drums are being loaded and presses are spinning, I'm sure, but from this end it feels as though the message has already been stuffed into the bottle, corked up, and flung beyond the line of crashing surf. By now it has drifted so far you aren't sure if you see the glint of sun on glass or on the water. Too late to change the font. Too late to change that unfortunate 'which' clause. Too late to change your mind, your address, your name.

Too Late the Phalarope. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Voyager drifts toward Jupiter, and we can only hope the attitude jets fire properly when we pass into orbit.

Not that passing into orbit will probably amount to much either. Okay, the pub date for the recent Harry Potter was a major event, but I've been around a few others, and little happens that doesn't happen on any other day. Sure, a week or two prior to pub date some of the reviewers sell their Advance Review Copies on Amazon, so you can buy used copies of the book before it's even been published, but on pub date itself all that usually occurs is that some copies may be put out on the shelves. Or not. Sometimes Barnes & Noble doesn't get around to unpacking the shipment.

Show business isn't like this. Even in amateur theatre productions, there is a steady build-up of activity until--ta-da!--Opening Night! Or unknown artists coming up to their first little gallery show are dashing about helping hang paintings or type out obscure captions and attributions, or at least assisting in cutting huge bricks of cheese into cubes and spearing them onto toothpicks.

Or think of all the silly turmoil and rush leading up to a college graduation, culminating in that march across the stage to shake the hand of the Dean. (Of course, after you get off the stage you discover that your diploma folder is empty because you still owe $63.42 in unpaid library fines, but until that point it's a rather excellent build-up.)

Writing just doesn't work like that. Don Marquis, of Archy and Mehitabel fame, was (among his many other accomplishments) a poet. He noted, "Publishing a book of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo."

It's even odder when said publication is taking place in another country. It becomes rather theoretical, like when your lover is on a long trip: Hmm, 10:30 here, they're 14 hours ahead, so I guess she arrived in Bangkok an hour ago...probably in a taxi by now...do you suppose it's sunny or raining?

On average I suppose a novel makes more noise than a book of verse, but even then it couldn't amount to more than a handful of rose petals. At best.

Still, if you happen to be in these parts a month from now, drive by my house. I'll be out front by the cactus, with my good ear cupped in the direction of Arizona, listening intently.


Suroopa said...

Hey David,

This one really made me laugh - there is something so infectious about your enthusiasm! If "Shock and Awe" is a fraction of your blog writing style then you have a winner.

I think 6 of us who were part of the launch of MNW were lucky to have got so much attention, though a lot of it was more controversial than just happy, given the Gaurdian tirade. But the sense of having set something worthy in motion made us feel special. For me there was the "back home" factor that added the extra dose of fun. I actually had two "Indian" launches in Delhi and Calcutta and only last month discovered two more reviews in leading literary magazines. I think much of it has to do with what niche you fit in - an Indian woman writing in English, published from a former colonial nation draws attention. The Bengali writer who was chief guest at my Calcutta launch has 70 super hit books to his credit, a few of them made into classy films with a Bengali super star in the lead role - but he told me he had not had a single book launch - for in India the idea of launches is entirely borrowed and comes only with novels that are published abroad. I can assure you my lone book looked rather odd next to his wide array of books put up for display at the venue!

Now that I am busy polishing the first draft of my next novel I realise how lonely is the entire business of writing and how transient is our attachment to the final product that travels forth into a mythical public domain. I have to admit that I have outgrown Across...and its peopled world. Its only when somebody asks me the experience of writing, publishing and seeing it on the book shelf - that I actually get down to recreating my enthusiasm. And then I am back to my new work. I wonder if others feel the same. That is why I marvel at those who are in the publishing business and who have to take care of the pragmatics of things. I think authors can feel detached from the rest of book making, including its take off.

But seeing your book for the first time in print is almost as miraculous as having the first sentence of your novel popping into you head, and persisting in making you sit up in wonder! I think it is this feeling that remains with you...months later. To be part of MNW is to relive some of that magic with every book that comes out month after month. It is mainly in that special sense that I feel priviledged to be the first 6.

And to you I say welcome to that special MNW brand of magic!

David Isaak said...

Hi, Suroopa

I suppose it's good that you can climb outside a book like "Mystic Shore" and move on to something else, because otherwise it would be like living with a whole second family. (And a rather large and opinionated second family, too.)

I think that launching the first six titles together was tactically brilliant. If they had started with just one, can you imagine the amount of picky attention that would have been focused on that first, single book? Instead, they confronted the world with a half-dozen very diverse voices, and it was too much to snipe at all at once.

Glad to hear that your second novel is approaching completion, and surprised and pleased to hear that your first one had you sitting with Mr Bestseller--that had to have been fun!

Anonymous said...


I will be listening intently, too!

Love you,