Just another lonely cliff plunge

The BBC recently serialised NW by the very talented Sadie Smith, and I was interested to read that she can’t bear to keep copies of some of her books in her house.

Hallelujah! Sadie and I have something in common. It will be no shock for you to learn that I too have a strong feeling of detachment, even loathing, of everything that I’ve published.

So why do some authors feel this way?

Well, it’s a bit like being the parents of a Barnacle gosling. You have to encourage your poor chick to dive four hundred feet from the nest that you’ve despicably constructed on a cliff top.

The pregnancy is surprisingly rewarding. You sit around a lot, often for over a year, eating chocolate and listening to Suzanne Vega. The actual birth is a relief too, just a simple plop, and then you can think about something else for a while. Now comes the dilemma - you are left with this tiny bundle of nonsense.

So why do we kick it off the cliff edge?

Writers are not sadists. You have to give the book a chance of surviving in the outside world. However, you have no wish to stand around and watch it tumble from the nest, its flawed body bouncing from one jagged rock to the next.

Instead, like a hospital report on a sick patient, Amazon kindly sends you a graph showing a very weak pulse. Then, you shrug and press delete.

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