Pull Yourself out of the Grave, My Son
Everyone hopes for the best for their children. They’ll grow up to be doctors or lawyers, or a rapper who puts out one piss-awful single that gets picked up by Pepsi for their big summer TV campaign and makes them enough green to buy you the kind of house you couldn’t have afforded with a thousand working years at your shitty factory job. Or, just that they’ll lead happy, fulfilling lives. But then, you take a walk past their school and see your beautiful kid sat alone in the corner of the playground, pushing his knuckles into his eyeballs, just for something to do, with the shrieks of other children’s play circling them like jeering crows.
In your mind, when he was just a swelling pushing against your girlfriend’s Edward Sharpe t-shirt, your mind danced with those images of prom night, grandchildren, and a Grammy acceptance speech where they cut to a close-up of Dr Dre nodding, but now all you see is security cam news footage of the little fucker orchestrating a violent school shooting, or a funeral eulogy that tiptoes around the phrase ‘auto-erotic asphyxiation’.
Of course, I’m talking in metaphors. No woman has ever let me put a baby up her, and I wouldn’t even trust myself to look after a cat. The child in question is one of my books, namely Frantic Planet: Volume II. Volume II sells by far the least of all my stuff, which particularly stings, because it’s the one I devoted the most of my life to. A few months of brainstorming and notes, followed by a solid year of writing on this particularly tricksy tome; but sales-wise, it’s the runt of the litter.
I went into its release with all those parental hopes, feeling like I had something really great that was worthy of catching fire and genuinely connecting with people, but it plopped out of the symbolic fanny wheezing, crawled about three feet, and proceeded to lay right there and die like a Brazilian street dog. This needled away at me for a couple of years, to the point where eventually, I just had to let go, move on, and forget it ever existed. It was too painful. The Kindle re-release was a second chance; a creepy cloning experiment where a doctor that looks like rubbish older Robert De Niro shoots up some eggs and jizz with Volume II’s DNA, and nine months later, I get another shot. Nope. Same thing. DOA. Maybe the sequel label’s part of the problem, where people feel like they need to read Volume I before diving in — even though they’re both stand-alone works — but whatever it is, the frail mortality of my fullest, most layered work hangs over my head like a particularly disappointed cloud.
Even talking about this stuff is taboo. Artists are supposed to present the image that everything’s going great; that every project is a wild success. The ‘indie author’ scene falls right into that unprovable category where people can spin wild tales of 10k royalty cheques or 500,000 monthly readers with impunity. Not this time. Frantic Planet: Volume II sells as well as a Gilbert Gottfried satnav, which leaves me with the quandary of “How can I let people know how awesome this book is?” One step is by producing these. Yeah, the whole minimalist movie poster thing is a bit of a fad, but it’s a neat one, and it appeals to my general lack of any real artistic ability. Each of these relates to a story from Volume II.
Click them for bigger, less blurry versions.
‘The Diary of Blue Horse’
“The Ostrich and the Insects”
I don’t agree with the mindset of shrugging and moving onto the next thing, not when there’s so much potential just waiting to rise up and live, if only a passer-by would take a couple of seconds to squat down and check the pulse. I am continuing with other things, and maybe one of those projects will lead people back to Volume II, but right now, I’m not willing to let go. If I’m to become the literary equivalent of that guy from China who lay in bed next to his dead, rotten wife for twenty years, spooning her tightly even as her bones turned to dust, then so be it, but I refuse to give up on it.
Books can find an audience at any time. Sure, it didn’t happen in 2009, but — whatever random reasons that lead to something catching fire willing — that time is now.