Idle Eye 175 : The Hawker

Been off for a while now. And whilst I’d love to tell you I’ve been lording it up in the Seychelles or chatting to itinerant builders about a snooker room in my recently excavated basement, the absolute truth is considerably less exciting: I’ve been on the road, and not in a Jack Kerouac stylee – as you might expect from a dynamic new author with a sexy book out and a lust for life that would give Iggy a run for his money. No, I’ve been taking the train to far-flung portals of London with a Pay As You Go Oyster card, seeking out small independent bookshops that might be prepared to take a punt on a dynamic new author with a sexy book out etc… And guess what? There’s almost none.

Perhaps it’s the way I do it. I tend to rock up at these places (still smarting from the stealth tax TfL exact on those who don’t use their wretched system every day), a little sheepish and clutching a cardboard box with the printer’s sticker visible at the front. It contains about eight books, a roll of parcel tape, a clipboard, a biro and some flyers from the launch. As I enter the premises, I realise I have but a few seconds to weigh up the level of resistance I will encounter from staff members well versed in the dismissal of self-published authors who don’t yet know the ropes:

Me:  Good afternoon!

SM:  Hi there, what can I do for you?

Me:  Is…er…Julian around?

SM:  You’ve just missed him. He’s out on lunch. I’d give it a couple of hours.

Me:  Not a problem. Perhaps you could help, though. I’ve just made my first book (SM begins to glaze over) and I wondered if it’s the kind of thing you guys would be interested in stocking?

SM:  Er…yeah yeah, cool! Could you leave a copy with us until Julian gets back?

Me:  Of course!

SM:  (rapidly flicking through)  Cool! I’ll get him to take a look as soon as he’s in.

Me:  Thanks. I really appreciate it.

SM:  I’d give it at least a couple of hours.

At this point, I trawl the nearby tragimarts for an entry level cheese sandwich. You know, one of those sad sack, wafer-thin triangles with a green label that retails at about £1.79. Because you do not have to be Nostradamus to figure out what’s around the corner, and any source of nourishment for the struggle should adequately reflect this. Next, I traverse the neighbourhood until I cannot bear it any longer and/or my feet are begging for mercy:

Me:  Hello again! Is Julian back, by any chance?

SM:  (pulling up book from behind desk) Yeah yeah, he was in about 20 minutes ago. Sorry, not really the kind of thing we’re after. Good luck with it, though. Looks great.

‘Looks great.’ Well, at least that’s something. Maybe next time I’ll concentrate on the words…

Idle Eye 74 : The Illusion of Intimacy

One of the clichés that gets endlessly bandied around by the self-help books when you embark on any form of writing is that you have to find your voice. Presumably because if you don’t, you’ll be using someone else’s and we can’t have that. Right, Noel Gallagher? Well, fortunately for you lot, I don’t seem to have that problem and I shall briefly demonstrate why:

Have a quick re-read of the above. Done it yet? Good. That’s my voice, that is. Right there. And the best bit is I didn’t even have to look for it! It was there all along. What a stroke of luck!

Perhaps what they mean by this is that there is a development of some kind of trust, a bond if you will, between donor and recipient. If the latter believes the former is credible, they are more likely to roll over & have their stomach tickled by somebody they have faith in. Which, sadly, leaves the donor in a position of power and the recipient vulnerable to exploitation. Are you with me? No? Ok, let me put it another way:

Has anyone noticed the rather toxic surge of informal fonts in advertising of late? And if so, ever asked yourselves why? Well, hear ye: It’s the printed equivalent of dress-down Friday, when the message can be pushed just as ruthlessly but in an ever-so-casual stylee. Take those wretched smoothie/ice cream cartons, all lower-case and loved up like they’re your slightly nauseating mate from back in the day, when anyone who went to school knows they just want to get into your wallet. And yet we buy this stuff despite ourselves because the alternative is brutal hard-sell, an even less authentic technique that went out with the ark.

Nibs and I have differing opinions on the above. His signature scrawl at the bottom of your menus could be construed as the same but in his case I’ll look the other way: He’s not cynically getting you to fund a second Tuscan villa (mainly because he doesn’t have a first one), and I do reluctantly admit that the colloquial approach he has adopted suits his one man and a pub business MO pretty well. But, for the most part, I find the whole ‘hail fellow well met’ corporate thing deeply disingenuous because it gives the illusion of intimacy where none exists. A bit like American tellers wishing you a fervent good day when they wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you got struck by lightning in the car park afterwards. Sorry, parking lot.

Anyway, that’s enough rhetoric for today. I’d like to use the last paragraph to thank you all for joining me on this little journey of words. Without you it never could have happened and you know why? Because you’re special. Each and every one of you. So keep telling yourselves that. Because you are. Really. See you next week xxx