If I was published, nay, when I am published, my life will be long one colourful conga of delights. My make up will never run or cause me to look like a performance mime artist. I will lose that last stone of flab and my wrinkles will disappear overnight. I will waft from suave literary luncheon to sophisticated cocktail party in a fragrant cloud of peer approval and tinkling laughter. Everybody will love me unconditionally and without pause, hesitation or deviation. Yes, when I am published, my life will be transformed.
But like some rather more intimate acts, the event itself can be something of an anti-climax full of accidental clumsy embarrassment and unintentional hilarity. Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame gathers together contributions from seventy writers who share their shame, blushes, mishaps and misdemeanours in a collection of laugh-out-loud funny tales of book signings gone wrong, AWOL public appearances, and fragile egos crushed at the hands of jaded local radio presenters. With pieces from Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Val McDermid, Colm Toibin and Andrew Motion among others, this collection of writers’ tales of the should-have-expected is a charming and hysterical account of what really happens on the other side of the gulf of publication. From cases of mistaken identity and the self-inflicted wounds of over-indulgence to a whip-cracking S&M prostitute at a literary festival, Mortification is a cringe-inducing carnival of delights. Or as satellite TV would probably put it, when good writers go bad.
It is life affirming to know that even the finest and best known writers have ignominy thrust upon them and suffer humiliation and rejection at the hands of an occasionally indifferent world. Whether published or not (-yet-), Mortification also reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously or to let our attention-craving ego strap itself too firmly into the driving seat only at our own peril. This wildly entertaining book provides the perfect antidote to an attack of the writers’ blues. You will never look at a literary event in quite the same way again.