Amazon – My Struggle.

There is a point at which tragedy can become the stuff of humour without offending good taste. It is a narrow line to walk for a comedian. It is an even narrower line for a romantic novelist in high heels. The death of Casanova from a love borne disease is part of history rather than accessible sorrow. Even football (soccer) players are unlikely to cry in public at the thought.  It is an irony rather than a work related disease and a claim for compensation. 

The six wives of King Henry VIII became the subjects of music hall songs under Queen Victoria. The thousands who died from the ambitions of Napoleon receive a fraction of the interest lavished on his love for Josephine. 

So it was that I opened my e mail inbox this morning to find a message from Amazon inviting me to trade in Adolf Hitler for a gift voucher. I laughed – I must admit I sat here laughing. Was there someone with a sense of humour at the Amazon time horizon of the universe? All the indications so far had been to the contrary. But there it was – I could hand in my copy of Mein Kampf and spend my reward on other goods. I had always smiled when Amazon had asked me to review this work of Hitler. I read some reviews in which serious types had taken issue with Hitler’s grasp of genetics. A few had criticised his prose style. So – these were the same guys who dish out my one star because of a misplaced hyphen on page 23. 

It is true. I do have a copy of Mein Kampf. It rests on a shelf among The Bible, The Koran, Einstein’s Theory of surviving Christmas with relatives, The Communist Manifesto and a Harlequin romance novel “The Billionaire’s Secret Love Child”. Ironically, to one side of Hitler is a workshop manual for the Volkswagen Beetle and on the other the poetic works of Wordsworth. 

Just imagine the fate of anyone in Nazi Germany sending back their copy of Mein Kampf. My guess is that their gift voucher would have been delivered by armed men in uniform and included a one way train ticket. 

Comrades – we have come a long way. We are free to laugh. We are free to mock. We are free to know.  Beyond the fragile walls of our society we know there are no gift vouchers for liberty. I’m gonna be keeping the words of the enemy on the shelf so that I’m sure to know them. The worry is what Amazon knows about me…..and who else might like to know in the future.

Emma Thinx: There’s no trade in on your conscience. It’s yours. 

Beached Wail

It is that insecure first Wednesday. All in all life is good since I am alive and in France. As for the writing – well, I wish I could claim great success. These days it is very important for me to try to remember that I have been at this game since my teens. Sadly that is about 35 years. I also try to remember that the “writer” is someone other than my whole being. In here there is a woman who goes to work, talks to neighbours, shares lives with children and grandchildren etc etc. Once again I find myself  hammered by remarkably spiteful critics – all of whom arise from free book days. I do pose the question to myself that if I am that bad, would I be worth attacking with such vehemence? It  is all very much of a puzzlement to me. Why are there no readers who just kinda find a book OK, not bad, quite entertaining, undemanding but not life changing? If a free book is so bad that you can only face a few pages, why would you spend half an hour pounding it when it has not cost you anything and, by your own admission, you have not read it?

This problem of the free book critical wave appears to strike many writers. Dotting around the forums I find writers who were doing well until they went free but now have had to pull their books, change their names and titles. So far I still have more likes than not but it is something I am watching carefully. The real problem is that I do not think anyone involved in publishing knows where to go. I often feel like a complete innocent longing for those simple days when I typed out stories for magazines, sent them off and sold about one in five. At least dealing with editors meant that they made sense and knew their readers tastes. If they did not like the story they did not buy it. They did not waste time telling you how bad you were.  The internet and celebrity mags largely killed the print market for stories. The affairs of the stars trumped any invention of the old story hacks. 

And finally about reviews, recently I checked out Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on Amazon because I was going to buy a copy for a young student of history. A guy had done a puffed up (Aren’t I clever) review stating the grammar was incorrect in the translation from German and had accorded the one star of his lofty judgement. The truth is that the the translation does a brilliant interpretation of Hitler’s atrocious grammar. The guy was a murdering dictator – not a budding author likely to be grateful for a grammar lesson from the underlings who transcribed his rantings. I must be one of the only people ever to have been cheered up by Adolph Hitler.

Figures in an unwritten book

I still want to write but the writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile both by the business of life and to some extent the discouragement of it all. The same story wanders about in my head but will not form. They are like strangers on a huge beach, unknown to me, always walking away with backs turned. They have a life and a story in their faces. I took a picture of them on my local beach….

Emma thinx: Relax: all the sand will run out long before the time.