The last book launch I ever had was for a terrible book called The Story of Admiral Sneeze. My first book, Hippotabus, had already been published, and I was in a great hurry to get my second book published (after all, I was seventeen and rapidly approaching middle age). It's the only one of my books that I deeply dislike. Whenever I see it in secondhand shops I buy it then dispose of it ecologically. I kindly ask librarians if it might be removed from their shelves, on the grounds that it's nearly fifty years old and, also, shithouse. There are so many new books brought into the world, we owe it to readers to make them as good as we can. I remember people saying nice things at the launch, even though they can't possibly have thought the book was any good. I think they were indulging me, the seventeen-year-old geek from West Heidelberg.
A really terrible book.
And now, nearly fifty years later, I am to have a second book launch for my latest title The Night Before Mother's Day. It's a horror story, illustrated beautifully by Judy Horacek. I visited my stroke-recovery speech therapist this week, and read the text to her. (I want to read it aloud at the launch, but I'm not quite ready yet.) The speech therapist told me that I still have a slight problem with my autonomic nervous system. For those not in the know, the ANS is the human body's special default nervous system, which takes care of things we don't think about. For example, it keeps us blinking our eyes, so they don't dry out like raisins. It also keeps us breathing. My ANS is able to fulfil these two functions but there is one more thing it's supposed to do and which it is not doing at the moment. It regulates the swallowing impulse, ensuring that we swallow saliva when we speak so that the mouth and throat remain well lubricated. Most of you do this without thinking.Since the stroke I actually can't do it without thinking, which means my mouth is often too dry or sometimes too full of saliva (Yech!) to enunciate certain words. I have trouble with polysyllables, so I have to think of them carefully before I articulate them. My therapist told me that if I am going to recite from the book, I should mark those parts of the verse where I must swallow, and also highlight words that are liable to give me trouble, so that I can recite the text without too many longueurs. Given that Tracy Harvey has already created a YouTube for the book, it may seem strange that I am so determined to recite the text myself. But it's a small challenge that I've set. I'm not going to recover properly without setting myself small challenges. I even contemplated standing on one leg for the recitation, and varying from left to right between verses. But while that will be particularly hard for me, it probably won't be terribly entertaining for the audiuence. It won't be a patch on Cirque du Soleil, and that is the level of professionalism that people have come to expect at book launches. So, it will be a straightforward reading of around thirty short verses. I'm practising constantly to give the audience the best rendition of the text and added incentive to buy the book. (By the way, coming to the launch doesn’t mean you have to buy the book, but it will solve your Mother's Day gift dilemma if you do. Hope I see you there. Allen and Unwin, my new favourite publisher, was kind to suggest having a launch. Readings Carlton was even kinder to supply the venue.It will take place tomorrow Thursday 26 April, at Readings Carlton ay 6.30. There are no official invitations, you don't need to RSVP, just turn up if it's convenient for you. Tracy Harvey, one of Melvourbne's very best comedians and comedy writers will be doing the honours, so come along and have a drink, some nibbles and a laugh or two, but go easy on the Cheezels. Books and Cheezels don't mix.
I promise not to stand on one leg. And you'll meet my mum!
A really good book.
Lastly, here are some pictures of the launch, taken by director Bryce Ives, about whom you will shortly be hearing quite a lot.