Friday, October 03, 2008

Mortification

Well, I read a wonderful, gloaming, clever book about writers - stories of things not going well about anythign really, serious writers being funny, stoic writers being self effacing, funny writers being terrified in misery.

I understood this.

When I started going to writer's festivals writers seemed to me to be lighter beings - not gods - I didn't know them, but greater than good. the very best of men and women. And who was I? I just wanted to write the stories that bugged me day and night - almost to madness sometimes, now even still. So i tried and somehow, wonderfully, succeeded, for some times, perhaps.

Who knows for how long but how long is life/ I am grateful for every day since I wished I were dead.

And this day was not one of them.

Well, not as dark anyway.

So I wrote what i would have submitted had an kind soul asked me this terrible question. We maybe/might all have one or twelve responses. this is one of mine.

I have many more, of course...

Because without them, you have not lived - and died.

Kirsty Brooks - Mortification

They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. But as my mother would retort, ‘Who’s they? If they told you to jump off a building, would you do it?’

Possibly. More so now. Because I’ve realised there isn’t enough time to turn some humiliating memories into hilarious anecdotes. Even if science gets all that nanotechnology sorted out and we get the chance to wander the earth for longer than hygienically necessary. Not nearly enough time...

I’d say there are two types of mortification. There’s the one that will transform immediately into a sheepish story at the bar, that brings forth new friends, shared horrors, admiring glances, beer as food, free love and camaraderie. And the other: a brutality of sweaty, gimpish others chained in a foul smelling puddle in the corner of your brain. Let’s haul one out for an airing, a hose down.

So which to choose? My hands twitch in sad fascination at the thought. The signing where no one turned up, not even the bloke who organised it? The reading where I learnt that the humour of sexual misconduct isn’t shared by, well, anyone? The festival where I realised at the end of the day that my dress was transparent? The panel with Tara Moss where I felt like a overweight man?

How about the book launch? Oh, yes…

At the launch of my fourth book, The Vodka Dialogue, they served cocktails from the recipe in the book, the bookshop was full, there were point-of-sale coasters and huge foam glasses with the book title on them, and I’d be coming from a photo shoot where the stylist had promised I’d look like Veronica Lake. Brave words but I believed her. It was going to be cool.

The thing of it is, however. I’m not cool. Never have been. And that afternoon, straight off the plane, I was styled into the chick from Fleetwood Mac, with 80s rock star hair, more make-up than even I wear, and an outfit that promised sexual favours for a gold coin donation. I had ten minutes to try to flatten the hair down in a taxi but when I got to the bookshop, everything was marvellous. Things were looking up. Maybe I was cool after all.

The new cool me had a few blue cocktails. Then, as I happily thanked my publisher, publicist and editor, a friend approached, exclaiming how it was great I’d lost weight but kept my ‘boobs’. How it was great I wasn’t fat any more. I had another drink. Then in my speech I apologised too long for my bad hair. Not shrewd but not a disaster, just sort of brainless. And so I had a few more drinks.

Then I started lurching about the room, engaging in conversation with strangers. Having a few more drinks. We, or possibly just I, talked about all sorts of things. Relationship breakdowns, failed books, dating, falling asleep in waffle-weave hotel robes and ending up covered with little squares, successful books, sex, incontinence, lovers, losing weight and keeping tits, wiping blue cocktails off the stock with your handbag. Everyone was my dearest friend.

And there were hours of this, we laughed, some cried, a select few danced, and then everyone started lining up in front of me. It was a bit weird until I realised they’d all bought my book and wanted it signed. Of course. I knew this. I was a professional. What I didn’t know was that a new gimp was waiting to join the brutality.

Because even before I’d drunk all the bright blue cocktails, I was incapable of retaining names. This is possibly due to years of the beer as food thing, although I (dimly) remember that my brain had to be recalled by the manufacturer even at school. I can’t trust it any longer. Socially, the problem can usually be sidestepped, however, and I force friends to introduce themselves, I call everyone by vague endearments, I stay home, writing, and try not to meet new people. Hopelessly transparent, of course, but I get by.

And here were all my new friends, kindly, with smiles of pleasure, lined up for their book to be signed, personally, to them. And one after the other, I had to grasp their book, smile dazzlingly at them, praying for a moment of clarity, a little nudge of memory. But instead the little gimp sat down, chained himself to the rest of the crew and settled in for the ride.

And so, agonisingly, I had to haltingly, apologetically, ask their name. Dozens and dozens of times. Soon I was giddy with it, and by the tenth signing also rapidly shooting through the five stages of sobriety, hitting remorse and self-loathing just as the last guests left.

As I thanked my publisher for an insightful editor, a terrific launch, a gorgeous book, I hit shame. Because there, with my big hair and my new book and my stupid ‘boobs’, I was the worst sort of arsehole. Not someone who just makes a fool of themselves, but someone who makes a fool of others.

For shame…

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