Then I died. Is this padding or is it priming the reader for something? He needs to give himself a break once in a while, especially when he misplaces a pen. So I was pleased to find a copy of this book under the Christmas tree. Proust starts with a madeleine. Brown starts with a pack of cards.
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After a private, and unusually delightful, gig in Stockholm, I gave myself and my extensive team of Coops PA and Iain writing partner the day off and painted. I have been painting a friend, the free-runner and general embodiment of all that is astonishing Chase Armitage yes, a par-court giant called Chase: living proof of the maxim that after years of primary-school teasing and slow-burn comfortable associations, people tend to be attracted to careers which suit their names.
Following that I visited an artist friend Patrick Hughes , and had my head cast in plaster in order for a reverse-sculpture of your apologetically infrequent blogger to be created. I thought I should also drop you a line about the new book, Confessions of a Conjuror which will soon be piled high and wide deep within those warehouses of Amazon , sometimes glimpsed on the way to Swansea, and prominently displayed in the erotic poetry section of Waterstones , whichever you prefer.
I can, without guilt, spend my afternoons in the cafe across the road, guzzling cappuccini with or without a panino , forgetting the cares of the rest of my career and ruthlessly clicking any TV-related phone-calls to answer-phone where they are left to rot and die.
It is an unmatched pleasure to live that life for a brief period, to wear clothes that are beyond squalid, to daily secure ones favourite table by the window and for there to be, for the time at least, no deadlines or pressure.
No pressure because one cannot write a book in a month, so the spread of the upcoming tour is always there to supply ample time to get within sight of the end and get ready for the far-off and very comfortable delivery-date.
On tour it is again a delight: the show is up, running and well-received, so what could be nicer than spending ones days discovering further glorious cafes around the country or tucking oneself away in a hotel bar until the time comes to show up and show-off on stage?
After the show is struck for the last time, and the mixture of sadness and relief has been shared and enjoyed by our little crew, I then have what time I can steak here and there to finish and polish and edit and tidy. The favourite month to release a book is October, as, I am told, you and yours get ready to think of Christmas gifts and start browsing the foyers of All Good Bookshops for that very special gift.
I know the second favourite release month is April. The tasteful hospitality quarters of Soho hotels and private club function rooms, decked out with tiny makeshift stages just large enough for a publisher and then an author to stand upon, heave and swell during those twin months with celebrities, the buyers from Waterstones and Tesco who sell the largest number of books in the country, so there and other outlets, publishing staff, friends and family and new literary product being released to the market.
I have never quite made my peace with these functions when they relate to my own scrawny output. After months of enjoying such a private pleasure as writing a book, it is quite another thing to hand it to the world, let alone the in-between world of book-people so ready to throw a party in your honour. Until then it was only your editor and your friend Iain who had read it — and your Mum, because you wanted her to be happy with a few bits — and now here is the guy from Waterstones telling you that the book is like such-and-such, and you think Is it?
Is that a good thing? I like book-people and they are always a very pleasant bunch. After some backs-and-forths over stylistic queries, formatting points, cover design, and what should be written on the back cover to immodestly celebrate author and book, there is a quiet period while it all gets printed. This year, I went off to record an audio book of the whole thing. I might, if everything goes boobs-up, get a job in an audio-suite and record such things along with them.
My voice just about held out for the only two days which my schedule allowed, and minus a few footnotes which could not be made to slot in easily, a slightly abridged version of the book was read by the author and recorded for posterity. The less welcome result of this reading-aloud of ones own book is the spotting of errors and oversights which had been missed by both author and proof-readers.
Hopefully the second printing will be all the finer for it. Soon — and my heart leaps giddy with anticipation — a box will arrive with my designated dozen or so copies of the book itself. I will toy with it, flick through it and place it around the flat on coffee-tables and sofa-corners. I will smell it, put it on the shelf next to Tricks Of The Mind, see what it looks like without the cover, find a place to leave it almost out-of-the-way when guests come over.
I shall not read it, at least not for now, because the fear of finding further mistakes saps any enjoyment from such an act. A copy may make it to my small lavatorial library and be leafed through during bottom-visits, but mostly I will not quite know what to do with it. I shall ask my publicity gentleman and editor what the response is to it, and if there are any lessons worth learning from it.
But that is all. I have recently done an interview with the Times Literary Editor, a very nice lady called Erica, and I may break my rule and read her write-up Oct 9th I think because I liked her. But even this is dangerous ground: it is a cruel glitch in the human mind that compliments tend to be glossed over whereas any negative comments stick in the mind and can ruin a weekend in an instant. Worse, today, we have blogs and Twitter and whatever else to cause upset and confusion if one is looking for it.
At least newspaper reviews are easy to avoid: the unthinking spite of those who anonymously express themselves online is impossible to miss. Who imagines, when casually slagging off some celebrity online, that the slaggee in question will actually read those words? They quite possibly do. Sadly any performer, however successful, is likely to be a sensitive soul. Witness the other week.
Hero airs: by far the most ambitious and personally joyful of all my projects, and is very well received. I, my team, and Matt, our subject and now my friend, are all very excited when it transmits. The show is a success and the feedback is very positive. After the show, Matt, on a high and perhaps for the first time bursting with deep pride, reads the popular but joyless Guardian blog and its spiteful comments that make fun of him, his relationship and his clothes: things a person should never have to read about themselves.
They angrily call him a fake, and his very real experience a worthless sham. It ruins his weekend and upsets him deeply, denying him the after-glow of the programme. His upset makes me very sad after all the work that we had put into giving Matt his experience.
Simply miserable for days. Now, I imagine this sounds like I am criticising others for criticising. Pah, I know, I know. And those comments are so easy to make. Days earlier I had jokingly scorned Shutter Island on Twitter. So I shall neither delve into my replies on Twittelator nor seek out reviews. And semi-autobiographical. The man from Waterstones thought it was a bit self-helpy.
Well, Iain likes it and I hope very much that you do too.
Confessions of a Conjuror
But look closer. What do you see? Not an autobiography at all, but a weird, whimsical and, at times, uproarious deconstruction of the celebrity-memoir genre. Whether at his writing desk or in front of the camera, it seems Brown is happiest when leading his audience a merry dance. Confessions of a Conjuror is a description of one night in a Bristol restaurant. In the first chapter, he is looking for a group of diners to dazzle. By the end of the memoir he is still in that same room, having astonished a table of punters with a series of card tricks.