They say that publishing a book is like having a baby. You conceive (granted: not as much fun with book writing) and then you give birth, you publish.
At some point, you have to introduce others to your creation. I remember asking my sister-in-law’s domestic if she found Joshie cute. Okay, it was more of a statement than a question, something like this.
Me, cradling baby in my arms: ‘He’s really cute, isn’t he.’
Domestic gazes at baby, takes a step back, screws up eyes, assesses the situation objectively: ‘The eyes are too big.’
Me: ‘What? No! They’re cute.’
Domestic: ‘Too big.’
In a similar vein, I remember when Greg’s friend came over to us for a drink. He’d just read our first novel. Convivially, pleasantly, on entering the house, he said: ‘I read your book last night. Didn’t like it. Anyway – you got some whisky?’
The thing about books and babies, I think, is not that the process of creation is similar, but that a part of oneself exits the world through the book or the child, and exists independently. It feels as though one is suddenly distributed and that makes one feel vulnerable. With children, the feeling usually runs much deeper and is longer lasting.
This excerpt from The Book of Jacob seems apt:
On the second day the paediatrician comes to visit. ‘I’m ready to leave,’ I tell him. My thinking goes like this: if I can get out of this place and go home, then things will go back to how they were, magically reversed. ‘I’m feeling much better,’ I say. This is not true, but the painkillers are devious – they return my body in snatches. I reach for a glass, sip some water: see, I’m okay. Now let me out of here.
‘It’s not you I’m worried about – it’s your baby. He’s losing weight. There are two of you now, remember. There’s absolutely no way you can leave the hospital today.’
Shame floods through me – of course, it’s not just about me: there are two of us now. And one of us is shrinking even if the other one is still as large as ever. (From: The Book of Jacob)
Of course, the idea that children or books are a part of oneself is really just a narcissistic perception, and it’s not really true at all. Books and children are separate from one. And, ultimately, one must toughen up, and as one becomes a more experienced parent and author, one does. But still… at some level, that’s how it feels.
Just a reminder about our launch next week, Wednesday at The Book Lounge:
And here’s the blue baby, fresh from the printers: