A beautiful baby has been born – it came out of that box which arrived last Friday. I couldn’t tell you the joyous news until now as I had to recover my health and strength after the difficult birth. There it is – so utterly gorgeous – I could eat it.
I have to admit, my fears from last week haven’t totally evaporated yet. True, no monster came out of the box, rather a perfect little book, absolutely touchable and readable. But like any new mum, I now have to learn to let my little darling go, hand it over every now and again into the arms of strangers. Can they understand my baby just the way I do? Will they pick up on the signs, know how to hold it?
Ok, let me cut the sentimentality. Of course I manage quite well to put copies of the book in envelopes and send it off to various lucky journalists, critics, academics, anybody who might perhaps say or write something publicly about it. I even sign the copies, put personal little notes. Love and kisses and hugs. What however proves much more painful is handing it over personally. It is nearly unbearable. When I sit opposite someone at a lunch or a coffee or just a plain meeting and I get the book out of the bag. I put it on the table and push it across with my eyes fixed on the cover. I see the other hand touch it. For a second the fingers just lay there, then they curl around my darling and lift it up. My eyes follow, see now two hands leafing through it. Utter silence. Some smell it, too, put their noses between the pages – beautiful pages no sick toilet paper – oh no – but real quality. Still no word. They put it down again, lift it up, look at it another time. And? I say with my heart in my mouth. Very nice, comes the answer. I get a smile. Thank you, I say, I bend over the table, take the book, open it, show them the flaps. I really like the flaps, I say, they look so beautiful. Yes, they are very well done. That’s it. Nothing else. They take the book, put it into their bag. Mission accomplished. The book is in somebody else’s bag, so it has a fighting chance to be read and even commented upon, too. I should be happy, right? I am not. Each time I struggle with a sense of disappointment because I want the other person to continue to talk about the book, to continue to stroke it, to tell me in the most elaborate terms – for an hour or so – what amazing product I have produced. But no one does it. After all it’s just a book. And there are 60,000 born in the UK alone every year.
So I go home, take another copy of my little darling out of the box, dress it all up nicely in a darling little hat and take endearing pictures to show my grandchildren in some distant future.