Frequent visitors to this parish will know that it’s a constant source of disapuzzlement to me that I am still not famous, despite my constant stirring up of trouble, notoriously shaky arguments which would drive a saint to drink, and my flat refusal to make this blog more attractive with pretty pastel photography.
Indeed, despite winning 3rd prize – this rather lovely Bronze award – at the Blog Awards Ireland 2018 recently, and thus ending my run of always-the-bridesmaid at the finals each year, I am as far from fame as ever.
Yet every blog post I write is on a knife-edge between causing offence to 46.7% of the world’s population, or making a handful of you giggle. I know you can all see how stressful this can be. (I can feel the sympathetic waves from here.)
But I’m also conscious that my complete lack of fame (and of course, to date, a publishing deal) also gives me the freedom to be honest where others simply cannot.
And so, I must in fact sympathise with my more famous writerly friends. This is because famous authors and, <cough> ‘social influencers’ <cough> are always getting asked by people to endorse other people’s stuff, whether they like the stuff or not.
Social influencers don’t seem to have much of a problem with this, but writers often do. And I can completely understand why.
If you can imagine the sort of difficult position a famous writer would be in, if, say, their publisher asked them to write a glowing blurb* for another author whose work they didn’t really take to, imagine then what it’s like for a famous IRISH writer.
Being famous in Ireland is a bit like being asked to be someone’s bridesmaid. You’re technically being favoured. You’re in the spotlight, where it’s assumed loads of other people want to be. But you’ve also been thrust into a position where you have to say yes to everything, no matter how distasteful or ridiculous, because people will turn on you and slate you behind your back if you don’t.
(This is quite apart from the fact that there’s only 2 degrees of separation between anyone in Ireland so you can’t run the risk of insulting anyone, because you’re always inextricably tied in some respect, even in the unlikely event you’re not related to their aunt/cousin/solicitor/godfather/fella they played the tin whistle with at a First Holy Communion when they were 7.)
So with all this in mind, I would like now to do my actually famous writerly friends a favour.
I’m going to write them honest blurbs for other people’s books, because they’re not allowed to. Yet we know they want to. WE ALL KNOW.
*For those pedants amongst us, a “blurb” can be one of two things: the story description on the back of a book, or those glowing comments masquerading as one-line reviews from famous people peppered all over the cover. For the purposes of this piece of snark, I’m referring to the latter.
“I waded through this for weeks and couldn’t count the number of times I put it down to read something else! I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about, or why anybody thought this story was worth writing, let alone publishing, but I persevered, so now I get to feel really clever. And for some reason my cat also took to hissing and clawing this book whenever he saw it, which was truly hilarious.”
PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: I couldn’t put it down! This story was worth writing.. really clever. And truly hilarious.”
“I have literally read this exact story 253 times before with interchangeable character names. I only finished this book yesterday, but couldn’t tell you now where it was set, or what any of the characters did for a living. Still, this book was perfect for me because I’m an exhausted new Mum: severe baby brain means I can’t concentrate on anything for more than 2 pages before I have to put it down again, so at least with this one I never had to go back over what I’d read before.”
PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book was perfect for me!”
“A triumph of stereotypes! Dead woman: Check. Hardened, troubled investigator: Check. Generic issues with female relatives: Check. Dark secret which isn’t really a secret but a red herring the reader figures out by page 59: Check. Showdown which contains blatant info-dumps and out-of-character behaviour on the part of the investigator: Check. This book has all the ingredients of a bestseller on the cover. Sadly, the inside just didn’t deliver.”
PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “A triumph! This book has all the ingredients of a bestseller”
“I couldn’t follow this book at all. I counted 3 flash-forwards, 17 flash-backs and what I think might have been 2 flash-sideways. By Chapter 6 I suspected that all the characters were in fact the same person, and by Chapter 7 I realised that person was not even a person, but in fact a computer algorithm, written by a cat licking itself on a keyboard. Also, I don’t even know how I know this, but even the makey-uppy languages and names in this book were misspelled. An astounding black hole of ideas, even in the science-fiction universe.”
PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book! …full of astounding ideas, even in the science-fiction universe.”
“Where do I start with this book? Chapter 2, which had an interminable 5-page description of the inner workings of a 17th century printing apparatus used to produce a pamphlet of prayers for illiterate orphans, or Chapter 17, where a lady of ill-repute gave a well-received speech about feminism? This book was 1100 pages of irrelevant research data and ideas from the 21st century. There were so many plot holes I couldn’t count them, but my favourite was the inexplicable 5-year gap in the narrative whereupon our hero had inexplicably become the manager of an ahead-of-its-time factory in Yorkshire rather than being hung for blasphemy in Restoration London.”
PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book was well-received… full of ideas of the century… my favourite narrative. Ahead of its time”
And, hey… famous people? You can thank me later.