Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lunch with my editor and other tragedies.

On this very cold and wet Melbourne day I trammed into town to meet with my new editor, the lovely Amy Thomas. We had a new book to discuss, one that I wrote ages ago.  (I confess I have reservations but will do my darnedest to make the book better).

On the way to Penguin headquarters near Southern Cross station, I passed some men who were cleaning some seriously disgusting graffiti from a wall. The rain started pelting down and a toxic slurry produced by their efforts ran over the footpath and into the gutter, even though they seemed to be taking all necessary precautions. The big sponges and buckets were there to collect the toxin; it was the driving rain that caught us by surprise. Only a fool would be stupid enough to tread in this slurry(especially as there were signs telling us not to do so), and I avoided it. What I didn’t know was that I had merely avoided walking in the painty part, but there was apparently a corrosive acidy part, invisible to the naked eye. And my eyes are particularly naked.

As I sat in the classy Penguin foyer I looked down and realized there was a row of footprints on the floor, leading directly to where I was sitting. What the hell was on my shoes? Stupidly, I thought I would avoid detection by moving to a different seat. All that happened was I made more footprints. Even a child of three would be able to follow the path and link the footprints to me. I was the person who had destroyed the trendy penguin foyer with my painty shoes. But this wasn’t paint. A cursory examination of my shoe heel confirmed there were no paint splotches, but that my rubber soles were in fact dissolving. The only way to deceive anyone about the source of the ugly black marks would be to crawl on my hands and knees to a different chair. I actually considered it. But my life is not pure slapstick. I was resigned to being identified as the foot vandal.

(At this stage might I comment on the new 'pink penguins' which are specially retooled pink covers, as sale of these books generates income for  breast cancer research? I think the titles that have been chosen for the pinkisation process are all intended to appeal specifically to women. The Pink Penguins are all proudly displayed in the foyer. There is a lot of Jane Austen and E.M. Forster. But one of the titles chosen was Perfume by Patrick Suskind. It certainly sounds like a 'feminine' book, but I suspect that the person who chose it hadn't actually read it. It's hard to imagine women being uttery delighted by the mass murderer Grenouille seeking the essence of woman in a particularly gruesome way.)
Ben Whishaw looking far too pretty to be the mass murderer Genouille in the movie, Perfume.

Special pink penguin meeting. 'Should we include Fight Club?'

Amy Thomas arrived, pretended not to notice the ghastliness I had committed in the foyer, and suggested lunch in the café at The Age building, which seemed a good idea, except for the problem with my shoes. I was hoping we might eat in; it was now teeming outside. We both walked across the bridge to The Age building. The wind was bitter. The rain fell in sheets. And my shoes chose this moment to disintegrate completely. I had to explain to Amy why I was making faces like a man with his feet in ice water. The reason was abundantly clear. I lifted one of my shoes, but didn’t want it to look like I was checking for dogcrap so I tried a more casual approach, ruined by the fact that the last bit of the heel on my left shoe fell off in a lump and revealed my dark blue explorer socks. I had been doubtful about my choice of sock. (Blue with my trademark St Kilda black?)

I thought it best to take a cab home, even though the route 96 is just the best tramline in the world that practically takes me to my door.  But the tram had just left and the helpful electronic sign advised me that there wouldn’t be another for fifteen minutes. Could I wait that long? The acid might have reached my knees by then. And was it indeed acid or something else i had managed to step in? So I decided to hang the expense and climb into a taxi. The driver thought I was being overly polite when I removed my shoes and he told me I only had to do that when I was entering a مسجد. I tried to explain about the lunch incident, and I’m pleased to say he didn’t laugh at all. Why should he? It isn’t funny. Though I think that he may have had limited language skills. Every time I mentioned a pub – that’s how we navigate in St Kilda – he seemed to think I was talking about a person. 'Who is The Prince of Wales? He does not sound like a productive man if he is forever standing on the corner of Fitzroy Street and Acland Street.'
I have just given my feet the Karen Silkwood scrub. All toes are intact, I’m pleased to report.
The book we were supposed discussing at lunch is a romcom for teens where comedy is examined in detail. It can both destroy relationships and build them. It also invites the reader to note that some things that may later seem comic were tragic at the time. For the moment, the book is called The Silence of Tigers, which is far too poetic a title and will undoubtedly be changed.
My favouriste designer Karen Scott came up with some very early and rough cover ideas. I really like this one, though i'd be surprised if the cover ends up looking like this, especially if we change the title.


jen storer said...

I am not laughing at your shoe/sock/solvent tragedy, Doug. No siree. I do however look forward to the new book! Very much.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ouch! What a mess! Mind you, the council or whoever ordered the job needs to know. This is poison and heaven knows what happened when it went down the drain!

DougMacLeod said...

Sue they were actually far more careful than I imply.
Big mops, buckets and a sign telling me i shouldn't be walking where I was walking. But it started raining very swiftly, I was cold, with no umbrella so I trespassed. I also suggest that my shoes melting is probably more due to me footwear than the workers' efforts

Anonymous said...

You are now my favourite all time author. Just about to read
Body snatcher for the second time.
Can't wait to read your other works if they are as good.

Thank you for your wonderful story telling. I draw cartoons for fun and am also writing a story for young adults, if only I could be as half as good as you!!

I had been hanging for something DECENT to read for ages. I hope it gets made into a film one day.

With gratitude and respect;

Michael Monroe