Slightly Under the Weather

Well now, having successfully dodged the wretched Covid for upwards of three years, it has finally caught up with me.  Bit of a prodrome last night, thick head and fever today.  The test line on the lateral flow test was immediate and unequivocal.  I sat in a “dwam” and listened to the Radio 4 morning service, then the Kuenssberg Show, but found it difficult to concentrate.  I made a couple of phone calls, and sent texts and emails to put off commitments for the next few days.  Then I studied a little German, but didn’t get very far.  The only thing I could begin to take in was the waspish Noel Coward Diaries (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1982), but even then it was too much of on effort.  I had to suspend activities.  I put myself under house arrest.  It was something of a relief, to stop.  I could imagine that somebody being hunted by the police might feel a similar sense of relief when finally collared, especially if guilty. 

Then I went back to bed and slept for two hours, feeling somewhat better on waking, to the extent that I can here once more wrestle the best of three falls with words.

Talking of words, I have an orphan tome just shy of 100,000 of them looking for a new home.  The publishing contract was all signed, sealed, and delivered, and then the publisher, alas, went into administration.  The rights are returned to me.  But what to do with them?  I sent the tome to another publishing house.  If you don’t hear from us after three months, they said, forget it.  Three months have elapsed.  I wasn’t unduly surprised.  Who would want to take on Part III of a trilogy?  But I would have appreciated a rejection slip.  Email would be fine.  How hard can it be? 

But truth to tell, the publishing world is shot through with this kind of casualness.  It has a long and undistinguished history.  Even Jane Austen and Walter Scott used to tear their hair out at the lack of communication.  And Lord Byron.  Except that Byron, being an aristocrat, gave his publishers hell and they accordingly touched their forelocks.  But the relationship between publisher and writer can be very unbalanced.  Writers are at a disadvantage.  The relationship can even amount to one of abuse.  My writing colleagues complain of “gaslighting”, and a profound sense of disempowerment.  When I read a particular email from a fellow writer, I was reminded for some reason of the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who fell afoul of the Soviet authorities and was marginalised, only permitted to give recitals in remote Siberian villages.  He took to alcohol.      

Writers very often have to compromise their art simply in order to get published.  Personally I have found this very difficult.  Frankly, I’m not a team player.  Anyway, what am I going to do with 100,000 words?  I could go on hawking it around various publishing houses.  Or I could try and acquire an agent who could do all the legwork for me.  Or, I could self-publish.  Just to get the damned thing out.  “Closure”.  Then I could get on with another tome which is currently on the stocks, brand new, complete of itself, and which, hopefully, is not burdened by any troubled history.

I’m not bitter.

Mostly, this week, in my Covid penumbra, I bemoan the fact that I will miss my German class on Thursday, the last class of the term before Easter.  I will miss that sense of belonging, or, as we say in German, das Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl.                 

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