Tuesday, 25 February 2014

In which there are calls for my book to be banned, and my dad is even more annoying than usual. (Possibly a minor exaggeration re the book.)

"The product information should warn that this contains politics," says Greg, reading from his computer screen.

"I quite agree," I say, only half-listening. I am otherwise engaged in reading an email from Dad, who's back in Thailand for the umpteenth time. In it,  he says he's split up with Porn-Poon but there's "no need to worry" as he's already fallen in love again. 

"With a much older woman this time," he adds, which is a big relief. Maybe he is capable of ageing with dignity, after all. 

I send a reply asking, "How old?" just to double-check. 

"You're not listening to me again, Molly," says Greg. "Which is particularly stupid on this occasion, given what I'm trying to draw your attention to. This review goes on to say that politics shouldn't be allowed in books. If you're not careful, you'll end up as the Salman Rushdie of chick-lit and all copies of your book will be burned in public."

"What?" I say, nearly having a heart attack. "What the hell are you talking about? Why would my book be burned – other than by The Boss, if he found out about it? And why are you reading the reviews anyway? I told you I didn't want to know about them in case they were terrible."

I walk over to Greg's desk, feeling slightly sick, and peer over his shoulder at the screen. 

"There," he says, jabbing his finger at a review that gives my book one star. One star! I've never even given a product that failed to arrive one paltry star, just in case it was the Post Office's fault and not the seller's. 

"Oh, my God," I say, sitting down heavily on the corner of Greg's desk and knocking his coffee over a letter to the Treasury. " I am doomed. And all my efforts have been for nothing."

"Don't be so dramatic," says Greg, dabbing ineffectually at the coffee stain and then putting the letter into an envelope anyway. "I'm only reading the worst reviews, as they're by far the funniest. Quite a lot of people really like the book, though I'd be tempted to assume they were all your friends and family, if I didn't know you hadn't told anyone about the book. So I suppose even the good reviews must be genuine, however unlikely that might seem."

"Thanks for that resounding vote of confidence," I say, heading for the corridor. I need a cigarette – and urgently. 

Honestly, how stressful is this book publishing business? It's worse than working for an MP, and that is really saying something. As if to prove that point, I'm still sitting on the wall outside the office, smoking and fretting, when Mr Beales shows up, looking even madder than usual. His glasses make his eyes look almost as large as his enormous ears.

"Hear about the police giving that nutter his shotguns back?" he says, by way of introduction. "He only went and shot his family with them, didn't he?"

"Allegedly," I say. Innocent until proven guilty, after all. That's the defence I'll be using if there are any more calls to burn my book.

"Pfft," says Mr Beales. "The police are bloody idiots. Only responsible people should be allowed to hold licences for guns. Talking of which, mine needs renewing. I'll leave the form with you, for Andrew to sign when he's next in the office."

I'm still so stressed about the book, that I just take the form without making any attempt at protest, which seems to surprise Mr Beales even more than it does me. Then I make things worse by rushing inside the building so fast that I accidentally let the door slam in his face. (I know it's only Mr Beales, but I'm not normally rude, even to him. I don't know what's wrong with me, which is exactly what Greg says when I finally arrive back in our office after walking up one too many flights of stairs and then having to walk back down again.)

"What did Big Ears Beales want?" he says, closing the window he's obviously been using to spy on me while I've been gone.

"He wants Andrew to sign his shotgun licence renewal form," I say. "I didn't have it in me to argue with him about it today."

"Are you mad?" says Greg. "It's MPs and their staff not handling this sort of thing properly that gets politics a bad name in the first place."

"Well, clearly the public don't care one way or the other," I say, "if they think politics is so irrelevant to their lives it should even be banned from being in books." 

"Now you're sulking," says Greg. "And all because of one little review. Don't be so pathetic, Mol. Imagine what Andrew's Amazon ratings would be like, if MPs ever got reviews."

"Well, abysmal, of course," I say. "But that wouldn't bother The Boss, would it? His ego's indestructible. Mine isn't. Think of a way to cheer me up, quick, if you want me back to my usual responsible self."

It takes Greg quite some time to come up with something, but finally he says he thinks he may have succeeded. 

"See this?" he says, gesturing at the video clip I took of the machine Clays the printers used to deal with the pallets on which my books were stacked. "Imagine this being installed above the entrances to MPs' constituency offices."

"Ye-es," I say, not entirely sure where he's going with this, but quite intrigued all the same. 

 "Well, then the machine just sits there, minding its own business – almost invisibly," says Greg, "until someone like Mr Beales walks in."

"And then what happens?" I say. It's still far from obvious to me where this is heading, but then I'm still distracted by the fear of being at the centre of a book-burning controversy.

"The automatic nutter sensor activates, of course," says Greg. "The one I'm going to design to make the machine suddenly drop down over the heads of the usual suspects – at which point this will happen:"

I feel much more cheerful now I've envisaged Mr Beales being silenced by a whirling roll of opaque plastic. Who cares if my book ends up being burned? Or that Dad replies to my email asking how old his new, "much older" woman is with this highly-complimentary response: 

"About the same age as you are, Molly." 

I shall just get Greg to programme the nutter sensor to shrink-wrap annoying fathers, as well as shotgun-wielding constituents. Then almost all my problems will be over.


PS Thank you  – sincerely  – to everyone who has read and reviewed the book so far. I'm genuinely grateful to you (as long as you didn't call for my book to be banned). 

Greg says I should start "shamelessly posting good reviews, like other authors do", so I may take his advice, if I can get over my grandfather's no boasting rule. If the whole thing becomes too nauseating, do feel free to tell me to stop.

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