Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame

Edited by Robin Robertson.

Details: First published 2003; cover shown is the 2004 Harper Perennial (UK) softcover edition. 289p.

"Mortification is a collection of writers' tales of ignominy, a grimly compelling anthology of shame... Anyone who has ever fancied an author's life would find this book an eye-opener. All the degradations of the profession are here exposed: the readings unattended, the signing sessions ignored, the doltish queries put by interviewers..."

Verdict: As someone who often says the wrong thing, or does the wrong thing, or thinks the wrong thing, I enjoyed this book and its dozens of tales of humiliating moments which - Yes! - happened to other people.

Imagine having the stitching on your pant legs come away while travelling to a reading. Or being embarrassingly patronised because you're a crime writer, and being made to sit away from the 'intellectual' table. Or losing the crown from a tooth in the midst of speaking before a group of people (and watching it fly out into the audience). Most stories involve alcohol, and many feature empty rooms or readings/book signings attended solely by the event organiser and the red faced writer.

Many of the writers featured were unknown to me (most are poets, which would have something to do with it). There are, however, contributions from names I recognise, such as: Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Roddy Doyle, Margaret Drabble, Carl Hiaasen, Michael Holroyd, Patrick McCabe, Val McDermid (the patronised crime writer), Edna O'Brien, Chuck Palahnuik, D. B. C. Pierre, Matthew Sweeney, and Irvine Welsh.

No comments: