Monday, October 17, 2005

Publishing News features diet book

I was hoping to resume blogging last Sunday [October 9] having reached journey's end the previous Friday afternoon. However until yesterday morning there was a problem re-opening the account with my winter ISP. I won't bore you with the details, except to say that for someone who spends as much time online as I do, it has been deeply frustrating to be offline for 14 days.

Yes, there are Internet cafés in my corner of rural Spain, but they tend to be smokey and, like most long-reformed smokers, I can't bear cigarette fumes.

The high spot of the past week was the arrival, by snailmail, of the October 7 issue of Publishing News. [Why it takes at least 7 days for post forwarded from the Channel Islands to reach Spain is a mystery, but better late than never. Hopefully the Oct 7 issue of The Bookseller will arrive early next week.]

On the cover of Publishing News was a picture of the two smiling women who "will change you inside and out in January 2006". In other words they are the stars of a new Channel 5 UK diet series and the authors of a book to be published by Vermilion on January 5.

Both the series and the book were the brainwaves of TV director Jo McGrath who relates the background in a full page feature in that issue of PN which your public librarian may have behind the scenes and be prepared to let you read, if you ask politely.

I showed the cover of PN to Mr Bookworm and asked if he had any comments to make about Wendy Denning, the doctor, and Vicki Edgson, the nutritionist, of whom Publishing News asks the question "Will Wendy and Vicki be the Trinny and Susannah of dieting?"

Trinny and Susannah, in case you have never heard of them, present UK TV programmes in which they transform women who, in their view, lack dress sense. I've seen only one of these programmes because, on the whole, I find TV boring compared with reading and pottering around on the Net. Also I would rather look a complete disaster than be "made over" by fashion gurus.

After studying the Publishing News cover for some moments, Mr Bookworm expressed the view that both Wendy and Vicki were heavily made up - which he, like most outdoor men, is not keen on - and had untidy hair. Apparently he hasn't noticed that untidy hair is fashionable. Tidy hair went out ages ago and may never come back. What struck me about nutritionist Vicki's hair was not that it was untidy, but that it looked dull and dry, like the hair of someone living on junk food rather than a well-balanced diet.

Getting back to Ms McGrath's article in Publishing News, I found one of her comments disturbing. "It won't be long," she wrote, "before the relationship between publishers and TV companies moves even closer, allowing new projects to be developed simultaneously, in joint partnership."

This may suit people like Dr Denning and Ms Edgson who are not primarily writers, but I don't think it will make full-time authors happy to have even more people dictating what they should/shouldn't write than is the case already.

A "must" read for all professional writers

But perhaps my opinion is coloured by the fact that the last book I ordered from one of my Guernsey booksellers before leaving the island was Grumpy Old Bookman sub-titled The Book of the Famous Blog by Michael Allen. [A £12.99 paperback original from Kingsfield Publications, but I believe you can buy it for less from Amazon.]

This very amusing but also deeply cynical collection of GOB's first 129 blogs, posted between March and September 2004, is one of the disappointingly few treasures I've added to my bookshelves this summer. In fact I apologised to the bookseller for not being as good a customer as in previous summers, not because of shortage of cash but because, in my opinion, there's been a serious dearth of appealing titles in recent months.

Jilly Cooper's editor's fault?

In May, before returning to Guernsey, I gave a friend the freedom of my bookshelves in Spain. On Thursday she came for coffee, bringing back all the titles she had borrowed, including my treasured copy of The Silent Houses of Britain by watercolour artist Alexander Creswell who, in 1992, was invited by the Prince of Wales to record the nine state rooms at Windsor Castle as they appeared after the catastrophic fire and, later, when they had been restored.

However it was not Mr Creswell's lovely book which my friend wanted to discuss but Jilly Cooper's Appassionata which I had recommended because she had mentioned enjoying Vikram Seth's An Equal Music. For readers interested in the lives of professional musicians, I thought the Cooper novel equally if not more interesting.

"But didn't you notice the spelling and other mistakes?" my friend exclaimed. "And the heroine bursts into tears every five minutes!"

As I do, my friend uses Post-it notes to jot down comments on books as she reads them. But I always make a note of the page number and she doesn't, so I can't tell you where the following mistakes occurred in Appassionata. But I don't think my chum made them up. Dilapidated spelt delapidated "ringing wet" "a crumby joint" "hoards of women" curvaceous spelt curvacious.

She also objected to what she called the many examples of product placement i.e. brand names rather than general terms. Also disliked were the puns, Carry On style humour and "puerile jokes à la Tom Sharpe". The final black mark was because the plot involves someone winning a lottery.

The paperback of Appassionata came out in 1997 and eight years later I can't remember much about it. I've always thought Jilly Cooper an engaging personality, although I can't quite forgive her for vulgarising what had been one of my favourite poems.

But, even if she can't spell - and some intelligent people can't - mistakes such as "hoards of women" should have been picked up by her editor. The book has nine pages of acknowledgements, mostly thanking the musicians who helped her get the background right. At the end of the thank-you pages, Jilly writes - "For the first time, the huge manuscript was typed on computers. The real heroines of Appassionata are therefore my friends : Annette Xuerab-Brennan, Anna Gibbs-Kennet and Pippa Moores, who completed the job on new machines in an amazing five weeks. They worked long into the night, deciphering my deplorable handwriting, punctuating, correcting spelling and pointing out howlers." But it seems that they, or her Bantam Press editor, were not eagle-eyed enough.

The book my friend liked best among her borrowings was Patrick Süskind's Perfume.

There are three more illustrations which I'm unable to upload at the moment, perhaps because of a very low connection speed. Will try again later, so you might want to come back this evening.

Otherwise, see you next Sunday...abw!