I've spent far too long on Google trying to find out who first said 'There are but three things that writers desire: praise, praise and praise. So I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say it was Dorothy Parker. I'm sure I read it in What Fresh Hell is This?
It's frighteningly true, whoever said it. Writers, I have been known to opine, are the most tedious of facebook friends. Have you been included on The Vic Premier's Reading Challenge list? (Which contains close to a thousand titles anyway, and yeah, I'm there.) For god's sake put it on facebook because people really need to know just as soon as possible. And even if you are only a passing acquaintance with the aforementioned tragic writer for god's sake leave a comment or give them a 'like', or you'll be unfriended - and we know how painful that is.
Time for me to come clean. Presuming it was Dorothy Parker who said that thing about praise, I am definitely a friend of Dorothy. I can't help it. I sit in this bloody room for about eight hours a day and make up rubbish that I hope people will find mildly diverting. My original aim when I left my full-time job in TV was to have one novel per year published. Penguin thinks that is far too many. And they do have a certain standard to maintain. After all, they published a kids' book called There's Money in Toilets, so we are looking at a publisher of some taste and distinction. (The toilet book is by a colleague, Robert Greenberg who is easily offended, and as self-involved as all writers, so I should add as a sop that it's actually quite a good story based on an interesting premise, it's just got a title that tries far too hard to capture the farting arse market that Andy Griffiths has so lovingly made his very own.
Now, if I'm going to apologise to Robert, I should also apologise to Andy. I actually sat on a CBCA panel once and defended The Day My Bum Went Psycho, on the grounds that it was a satire on James Bond. Really, the idea that there is a deranged giant bum somewhere that wishes to release some sort of force that means every human on earth will lose their heads and end up with extra bums on their shoulders is worthy of the Bondian evil mastermind, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Sure, it's stupid, but so is the idea of stealing three nuclear warheads and holding the world to ransom. Why, Blofeld ? What the hell do you want? This is what Blofeld did in the Bond movie Thunderball where we first saw his lovely white long-haired cat that he kept on his knee. I always thought that was funny; that Blofeld, who only ever wears black, should have a white Persian pussycat. We used to have such a pet in this household. Not only do they tend to be stroppy and deaf, especially if their eyes are of different colours, but they shed so much white fur that, without constant hoovering, you end up with a flokati rug in the living room that you never knew you had. As for your groovy tight-leg black pants, they end up covered in a flock of white fur. So really, in that scene where we first meet Blofeld, we should see a man entirely covered in bits of white fur, trying with dignity to outline his plan for world domination while his shaggy pet cat keeps biting at his legs or digging his claws in, which is a bad look for an evil mastermind.
That scene in Spectre when we first meet Blofeld (although we only ever see his legs, for the rest of him is concealed by frosted glass and the fluffy white cat, should really be more like this:
Several numbered but unnamed spectre agents sit around a table as Blofeld, only half seen by us, conducts a board meeting. (Sorry for the dodgy layout. How wise of the Blogger people to change everything about their program, given that we've only just learned how to use it.)
I regret to inform you all of the death of SPECTRE Number Six. Colonel Jacques Bouvar was killed by an unknown assassin. His services will be greatly missed. We will now hear the area financial reports. Number Seven? Blackmail of the double agent Matsou Fujiwa?
Unfortunately, only a million yen.
All the man had.
Number Ten? Assassination of Perringe, the anti-matter specialist who went over to the Russians?
White Fluffy Cat
Ow, get your claws out of my goolies, you fluffy white monster.
I am world-class evil mastermind Ernst Blofeld and I will not be clawed in the goolies.
Sir, we got three million francs from the Quai d'Orsay.
Another Bad Guy
Our consultation fee for the British train robbery: was -
Fluffy white Cat
Miaow. Miaow. Miaow.
Ow. Shut up, you idiot.
Another Bad guy
Sorry, Number One, I thought you would want to know.
I was talking to the cat, not you, you idiot.
Distribution of Red China narcotics in the United States, collected by Number Nine and myself, comes to 2,300.000 dollars
Two million three? Our expectations were considerably higher, Number Eleven.
Fluffy White Cat
You have upset my cat. Kindly explain.
Well, sir, fluffy white cats are notoriously cantankerous.
I was talking about the two million three hundred thousand dollars, inbecile. Why the shortfall?
Competition from Latin America. Prices are down.
We anticipated that factor. Oh, bugger! That really hurt, you stupid cat.
You have caused me to use inappropriate language for a Bond movie.
We can't say 'bugger'?
No. We can put people in decompression chambers and blow them up,
we can kill people and torture them in a thousand ingenious ways,
we can even have Jame Bond strapped with his legs apart to a table while a laser beam advances slowly on his goolies,
but we can't say Bugger!
But Number One, you keep saying it.
That is because this stupid white cat thinks that my groin is a scratching post.
Do these meetings really excite you that much, Number One?
Enough about the cat and your rude schoolboy jokes.
Are you sure all monies have been accounted for by yourself and Number Nine?
To the penny, Number One.
On the contrary.
The seat on which the embezzling bad guy is sitting starts to glow and become radioactive.
Bad Guy in chair.
Oh bum! I should have realised this was the naughty-chair
when you insisted I sit in it, also when you made me wear that seatbelt.
The naughty-chair explodes or something similar and the man who sits on it is burned to a crisp.
Let that be a warning to you all. Don't sit in that chair.
Fluffy White Cat
Shut up, or I'll put you in the naughty-chair, Mr Bigglesworth. Oh god, do I have to call the cat that?
That's what Ian Flemyng wrote, Number One. So the cat has to be called Mr Bigglesworth.
(Narrows eyes) You command me? The evil mastermind of the universe,
even with these stupid scratched-up pants?
Move to another chair, you insolent dog. That one by the window.
(nervously) Er, that isn't a chair. That's a lawn mower that's been tipped upside down.
Ah, I see you are too observant for me. I have a more ingenious punishment.
Bring some sticky tape and help me to get this stupid white fur off my pants.
I cannot dominate the world even with three stolen nuclear warheads if I have white fluffy pants, it is not dignified.
James Bond enters
(smiles at camera) Ah, sorry I’m late for the board meeting.
Mr Bond, you shouldn't be in this scene!
I couldn't resist making one of my fiendishly clever double entendre jokes.
Yes, but you only do that when you've killed someone -
and anyway, your jokes are always shithouse.
This one's a beauty. (CLEARS THROAT) "You should see a doctor,Blofeld. You seem to be having trouble with your pussy."
Don't talk, they're still laughing in the cinema.
You risked your life, killed a whole bunch of people climbed a mountain in the sea then crawled
through ten miles of ventilation shafts just to say that?
James Bond I had to, Blofeld. Now the future of seventies English comedy is safe.
So you see, I'm all for someone who takes the mickey out of James Bond. It's like old-fashioned Doctor Who -
you just have to accept that it can be a bit silly at times, and go along for the ride.
So, even though I said very positive things about Andy Griffiths' books, I lied a bit.
To be honest, I'm not sure they're helping us that much. Anyway, we had both been speaking at a lovely conference in Launcestion,
where I apparently disgraced myself on a panel about … oh, who remembers? Except James Moloney told me I was crap, but in a nice way, for he's a nice man.
I was driven to Launceston airport, which is really more like a bus shelter, to catch my plane back to Melbourne.
I should point out that Launceston airport has just two departure gates,
so if you're actually in the departure terminal in plenty of time, you'd have to be pretty stupid to miss your flight,
especially if you have no luggage loaded. Reader, I missed my flight.
And it happened because Andy started talking to me and saying nice things.
He'd actually read my books, which puts him up there with about sixteen other Australians.
And then he told me what he liked about them! Praise, praise, praise. It seemed I had made a new and unlikely friend.
So, we talked about music and agreed that the best Bowie album is Hunky Dory and that Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
is definitely underrated. So the conversation continued, with compliments spewing forth from Andy.
And not a single bum amongst them. God, I loved this guy. So articulate. So misjudged. So observant.
Sadly, I wasn't observant enough to realise that my plane home was being boarded and indeed taxiing to the runway.
By the time I realised I had missed my flight, I was awash with Andy Griffiths' compliments,
like Mr Bigglesworth's stray white fur. Then of course I had to stump up for a second air ticket.
It really wasn't that much - probably the amount I was paid for speaking at the conference - but it was worth it.
Because I got praise praise praise, as I’m sure that Dorothy Parker once said, so I apologise
to all those guys that post on Facebook and that I have been lambasting because they're so self-involved.
(Come on, Michael, you did post a photo of yourself standing in a multi-mirrored lift,
so what we saw was you from every possible angle.
Okay, so the lift was in Dubai, and you were being paid squllions to teach your books there,
but that didn't stop it from being a crap picture of you in a lift with a camera,
and enough reflections of you to last a lifetime.
But guess what? I forgive you all. I am you. Writers are horrendously self-involved.
I swear, a writer could actually be on fire but if you asked them how their latest book
was going they'd probably stand still for about ten minutes to tell you.
And that's why I'm going back to Facebook. I won't link to Goodreads reviews (or any reviews),
but I'll probably post the occasional picture of me (probably not in an infinitely reflective lift)
and have the odd gripe about things like missing the ELR/PLR deadline for The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher
(my only reasonable seller) because I was in sodding stroke rehab. (Apparently this argument is not a valid one,
not just because of the inappropriate language. They've already done the survey,
because of course Penguin submitted the correct publisher form, so they know how much money
I should have been paid, but I'm not going to get that money because I was selfish enough
to be swanning around a hospital with an impaired brain.)