October 18th, 2013
All the buzz this week has been about judging a book by its cover - I got a draft of the close-to-final copy for the back cover in which my story is tailored for the best market. The tagline on the front cover reads: One Woman. Two Worlds. And a Love that Knows no Bounds. I can almost hear the ultra-deep voice-over: In a World where love knows no bounds...
That's how they sell books these days, and I will be very glad if they sell mine in heaps! Selling your soul to the devil be damned - I'm walking with him right into his fiery lair. You want Romance? You got romance - you got a love that knows no bounds, because that, I guess, is what we have to believe in. You got Mary Shelley who kept her husband's heart wrapped in a cloth in the top drawer of her desk (gruesome!) You got WB Yeats pining away most of his life for love of Maude Gonne. You have Robert Browning losing his heart (but not literally this time) to Elizabeth Barrett (even though she looked like a man in drag); you have Abelard for young Heloise, who had him by the goolies until the goolies went missing one night, and then you had a monk pining for a nun. There's Simon De Beauvoir pining for Jean Paul Sartre, a five foot toad with a large cranium (who says size doesn't matter?) but possibly the worst teeth in all of literary history. Love is blind. And so, presumably are most readers readers, who will read anything so long as it has as its theme endless love.
My readers will in large part be female (so I am told repeatedly - well, they make up 62% of fiction readers - 91% of Romance), and I am tempted to call all women out on the need for tales of endless love and order them to stand on their own two feet. Love like this might exist, but it ain't going to make you feel any better about yourself if you don't already. But I like love stories, too, and I sorely miss them when they are absent. I don't care for that celibate protagonist Langdon from Dan Brown's books. I decry gratuitous sex in books, but I keep wanting Langdon to forget himself and run his hand up Sophie Neveu or Vittoria Vetra's leg. It's the mix of spices, isn't it? I don't care for bland saltless food, and no more can I take a depiction of life without sex. It feels limp (so to speak) and lacking somehow. So, I am the perfect author to be writing tales of love that knows no bounds. I suppose even the most vigilant of us are looking for our happy-ever-after. Slap it on the front cover then: this author wants immortal love and she hopes you do, too.
They want a photo of me now, too, for the back cover. I sent one, but it didn't have enough pixies in it. I don't have enough pixies in me, that's for sure, otherwise I would never sink into those morose moments (or longer than moments) that writers are famous for. The question is how glamorous to appear in a back cover photo, how young? It inevitably happens that you go along to a book reading only to find that something like twenty years separates the person in front of you from the one you saw and liked so much on the back cover of their book. But what can you do - we live in a culture of youth, though the youth know nothing, and wisdom is housed in bags of saggy wrinkles. Writers, like everyone else, must be eternally young and ensconced in immortal love. So the pictures aren't exactly telling a lie, but they ain't telling the truth either. I can do nothing about my wrinkles unless I go and have them surgically removed, which would offend my deep literary ethics. Because in books women, even old women, are always beautiful.