ON THE ROAD. AGAIN. STILL.
Are book tours the champagne-fuelled, peeled-grape, fan-filled extravaganzas you'd like to think they are? Not exactly. And especially not once upon a time.
This is one of the Book Tour Comics I used to draw for my publishers as Christmas presents, and to make them feel guilty for making me do Book Tours. The book was The Robber Bride, featuring a gorgeous femme fatale and con-woman, Zenia. (A male friend of mine had said that there weren’t any con-women, only con-men, and I begged to differ, having known some.) It was in my black hat days, as you can see.
(Why is it yellow? Search me. It’s a photo. Does old paper photograph yellow?)
I recently did a mini-book tour in aid of Old Babes in the Wood, an admittedly odd assortment of short fictions. I was very well treated. I got fed real food, and didn’t have to fall back on the cheese and cracker snack packs from airports or the Pringles from the mini-bar, if any. I stayed in hotels with elevators. The elevators worked. This has not always been the case.
I no longer have to stand on the seat in order to hoist my suitcase into the overhead storage on planes: it generates alarm if I try. (Old, you know.) “Let me do that for you!” they cry. No one wants me to break my neck on their watch.
It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, back in the 60s and 70s, Jack McClelland would send you on the Cross Canada Kill An Author Experience. Publishing was viewed as a cooperative venture then, especially Canadian publishing, which was always hanging by a thread. Jack said it would increase sales by 2/3, if you’d put in the effort. It would be selfish not to do it.
You started in Halifax and did a city a day — Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton or Calgary (choice of one), Vancouver; by the time you finally hit Victoria, you’d be more dead than alive. You did radio, TV, and newspapers in each city: in those days there were no Zooms or phoners, so you had to actually be there in the flesh. Worse, you were viewed by the media types of that era as a freak, or I was. (Young. Female. Writer. Crazy.) “How do you manage the housework?” they would ask. “Look under the sofa,” I would reply. (Dust bunnies, was the implication.) “Do you hate men?” they would inquire. Sometimes, as a variation: “Why do you hate men?” Or, for a switch: “Do men like you?” “Why don’t you ask some men,” I would riposte. This was considered brusque. I was not good at simpering.
The one above was for The Blind Assassin, which came out in 2000, was savaged in the N.Y. Times, and then won the Booker for that year. (The English novelist Beryl Bainbridge and I had a running contest to see which of us could get nominated the most times without actually winning. I was ahead at four, but then it all fell apart.. .. Beryl never did win the Booker in her lifetime, but was awarded a posthumous prize. Cold comfort.)
And finally, here’s the Book Tour Comic for 2019, the book being The Testaments. This was more of a preliminary e-card to send to those who might be expecting a reply.
Will I do one for Old Babes in the Wood? Possibly. But not soon. It’s spring, there’s a garden, and I will be upside down in dead leaves and mud for awhile, and repairing self-inflicted wounds. (Rose thorns. Wear gloves next time.)
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