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Lisa Lazarus

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Attending your own book launch

In the car before the launch, Greg said, ‘Maybe don’t do the downbeat earnest thing, okay – ?’
I nodded. ‘Sure.’
Earlier, I had told him not to wear the new black Converse tekkies he’d bought for the event. ‘You look like David Kramer,’ I had said.
If he had listened to me, surely I should do the same for him. 
Me – trying to look calm and composed, but I really feel like that cartoon character behind me on the poster.

Me – trying to look calm and composed, but I really feel like that cartoon character behind me on the poster.

 

Half-way through the launch, I found myself saying, ‘We’re all losers. Everybody loses at life. There’s no winning play.’ Or some such rubbish. People looked like they wanted to cry.

Luckily, Greg moved quickly into an anecdote about Amsterdam as a place of ‘semi-naked women and bookshops, a paradise of lewdness and literature.’ We had segued seamless from death to sex, and everyone was relieved.

The other pre-launch advice came from my mother.  She’d phoned about an hour before the launch. ‘Oh my god,’ she had said, ‘how many people are coming? ‘
‘I don’t know mum, it’s not a barmitzvah.’
Well, I just hope some people come,’ she said darkly, before adding, ‘Don’t say anything insubstantial.  You did that last time at the previous launch. Say things that people will find interesting. Think about what you’re going to say beforehand.’

With my mother, maybe it’s like that with most parents, the best is always to take her advice and do the polar opposite.  We weren’t going to prepare at all. No five point plans. We’d just be ourselves.

The problem with no planning is that you can be struck with Empty Head Syndrome (EHS), an unpleasant malady at any time, but if you’re at home, you can always go and get a snack and a cup of tea. Not so when you’re in front of an audience,  their faces upturned and full of expectation, each  silent moment of EHS stretching into infinity.  

Unfortunately, EHS struck when the interviewer asked – ‘Lisa, perhaps you could tell us…’ – and here she outlined succinctly her question: something to do with the literary dilemma of writing authentic 18thcentury letters, with reference to other novels that had attempted this. I grasped painfully at the lack of thoughts in my brain before saying that we’d tried to make the eighteenth century part sound nice and smooth and readable. Nobody was convinced.

But come to think of it, you’re really asking a lot from people when you invite them to attend your book launch. I mean, nobody has a lawyer launch party after they’ve been an articled clerk for a few months, where they discuss their recent drafting attempts. Or a doctor launch after their first year of work, although medics do tend to take the opportunity to discuss that kind of thing at parties.

Maybe writers, erroneously, think they deserve it. After all, they tell themselves, they’ve been sitting all alone for months, years even, attempting to create something from nothing.  But actually, they haven’t.  Most of them have been yakking away on Facebook and email, complaining about writing and who has sold what to whom, and for how much.

Thanks to a friend who posted this before the launch – it was a much needed boost. It’s also the closest we’ll ever get to Damon Galgut, and so I plan to enjoy the moment.

Thanks to a friend who posted this before the launch – it was a much needed boost. It’s also the closest we’ll ever get to Damon Galgut, and so I plan to enjoy the moment.

But launches can be fun. Interesting people come up to you afterwards. Like the vibrant-looking couple who approached me, the wife introducing them. She told me that her husband was also a philosopher and that he ‘reminded her of a hobbit’. It’s hard to know how to respond to that without disappointing one of the parties.

The post launch supper is naturally much less stressful, and as a result, sometimes deeper conversations emerge. I arrived at the table to find Greg discussing the weighty heft of a bull’s scrotum. It’s true we had seen, and marvelled, at such a beast in a secluded pen on our last holiday at a farm, but I hadn’t known that it had had such a profound effect on him.

But in summary, people were kind – they came out on a cold night to listen to us talk about a book they hadn’t read, and some of them even bought it afterwards. That’s loyal.

And lastly, if anybody wants a pair of Converse takkies, please speak to me. Just make sure you can tap dance, while singing Kramer’s Stoksielalleen.

Read more about our new novel – Paradise.

 
 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://mayafowler.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    Maya
    May 26th, 2014 @22:40 #
     
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    Lisa, it was a great launch. And the "half-way through the launch" thing you're talking about is called an Eeyore moment. It happens to all intelligent people from time to time. The best medicine is a swift segue to a Tigger moment, which Greg presented with aplomb!

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