Peirene and I are presenting the 2015 titles to our sales reps. They will start selling the books to bookshops straight after our meeting. We need to give them enough information about the stories and fire them up so they in turn can excite our booksellers.
I mention the new series title – Chance Encounter. All eyes on me, interested nods from everyone around the table. I move on to the books. White Hunger and Reader for Hire go down like a treat. Then I come to the third title, The Looking–Glass Sisters. ‘It’s about two middle-age sisters,’ I say. Juliette, one of the sales reps, begins flicking through her notes. ‘It’s about physical disability within a family.’ Jim is checking his phone. I pretend I don’t see and continue: ‘And how to cope with it.’
Then I stop. And stare in disbelief at Peirene next to me. She has slid down into a lying position on her chair. Her head rests on the back, her face turned upwards, her eyes starring at the ceiling.
I kick her foot under the table. ‘Sit up!’ I hiss. She turns her head slowly towards me. ‘This is so boring.’ she yawns. For a moment I am speechless. I glance around the table. Have the sales reps noticed the Nymph outlandish behaviour? Not really. Because no one is looking in our direction. They too have lost interest.
‘I told you,’ Peirene whispers. ‘You shouldn’t give some phony reason why you publish this book just because you think that’s what sales reps and booksellers want to hear.’
‘But the real reason is too academic for the Anglo-Saxon bookmarket,’ I reply. ‘Well,’ Peirene returns her face to the ceiling. ‘You’ve got very little to lose.’
I take a deep breath. ‘Has anyone read Beckett’s Malone Dies?’ I ask. The Irish sales rep nods. That’s all the encouragement I need. ‘For me Malone Dies is not about the death of the plot, but the inevitable and necessary death of the male ego before a story can emerge. The Looking-Glass Sisters offers the female version of this narrative. The sisters are the two sides of the writer. One who can’t move, who can’t look after herself, can only read and write. And the other half needs to care for the first one but she is desperate to get away and revel in a purely physical existence. They will never be free of each other, unless they acknowledge their mutual dependency. This story is a brilliant tale about the creative writing process,’ I conclude.
‘That sounds fascinating, ‘ Jim says. His phone is back in his pocket.
‘Put that onto the Advance Information Sheet,’ Juliette says.
‘But isn’t it a bit too high-brow?’ I ask.
‘That’s what booksellers expect from a Peirene book.’ Mel says.
‘We’ve made it!’ The Nymph smiles at me out on the road. And then to my surprise give me a hug ‘How many publishers quote Beckett to the sales force?!’ she asks. ‘And have the sales reps excited by such literary reference.’