Last week there was another publishing stramash. The publisher wanted me to fill in a form asking the Dictionary of National Biography for permission to use the entry on Betty Clark written by Bob Trotter despite my not wanting anything by him in my book and especially not what would be legitimised by being in it, his mistake in assuming her middle name, Thoms, an abbreviation for Thomson despite the fact that in 1918 there’d be no abbreviation and if there were there’d be a full stop after it. It’s an easy mistake to make. When I’d made that mistake myself orally to her, thinking she said the more common ‘Thomson’, she bridled and made clear what her middle name was. A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet to the rose if that rose is Betty. She’d be mortified, if she weren’t already dead, at the DNB’s mistake and at its not correcting the mistake on my telling it …of it. (Po-faced pompous self-important pretentious puffed-up poltroons in a word.)
If the publisher wanted to impose an appendix of Bob Trotter’ s entry, however, she was within her rights to do so, as publisher, and I wanted to see how far it could go anyway. Not very. I had to email her back for information the form she’d sent me required, again and again. It was obvious she’d asked me to do what she could’ve done herself in the time it took to email me the form and was wasting my time delegating it to me and wasting her time wasting mine by having to email me the information needed to do it which she herself had to hand! No one is more obliging and willing to help than me but….
I was ordered to do it and in addition to jump to it! Well! Have I said this is a cooperative? Possibly not since I’d only just learned myself and had no idea what was entailed. What I was fairly certain was you do not order other members of a cooperative. In fact, you do not use this language to anybody if you want their cooperation. That said, I do realise most people work on the presumption of dominance/submission and – shall I broach her name? – Jacyntha may have assumed I’d succumbed to an earlier threat of hers to pull the plug on the project and was following up on that. I hadn’t, however, given in to that earlier threat. I’d conceded a point about layout on the reasonable ground I knew nothing about it and I presumed, probably erroneously, she being a publisher did, before I’d gotten to the threat, as I think I may have explained in an earlier blog – for those who can read and construe aright! Whatever, I was incensed. I never give in to threats and don’t ever take orders from anybody (except from John when in his throes saying kiss me, kiss me, keep on kissing me, but next time I’m planning on saying: ‘no. I don’t take orders. What am I? a waiter?’) I did think of telling her to fuck off and might have gotten away with it since she’s invested too much in the ‘project’ to pull the plug but I wasn’t sure what the effect on me would be if she did and one shouldn’t push people too far that they act against their own interests and maybe mine. Besides it was indirect communication. It’s not as if she was present and the words sprang out of me unknowingly and despite conscious inhibition, not to mention repression. There was another way to couch it and I took it. I am nothing if not articulate. And savage. Anyway, she also was herself thinking of telling me to get lost if her threat ,veiled in an analogy of so-telling another writer much the most talented she’d ever known, is anything to go on. I ignored that face-saving threat as inapplicable since I am far and away the most talented writer she’s ever likely to meet, and modest withal. Come on! What other writer do you know has ever composed his books in life first? Betty Clark couldn’t do that, though out of artistic considerations I do leave open to the reader of CORRESPONDENCE that it might be she who’s manipulating me in its construction in life. What woman has ever manipulated a man into doing what she wanted regardless of his needs? In the history of the universe has there ever been one? Has there ever been one who hasn’t?
The upshot was we made up. I suppose this is what’s called biting the hand that feeds you, the prerogative of the artist throughout the ages. I haven’t been fed yet. No little chick has made its way out of the shell, for all its chirruping within, to be snapped up by my lupine jaws. So I have a little bite out of my beloved publisher, so? A boy gets peckish.
I tweet under the name JohnnyTaggart but say little about my publisher there since she’s a follower and I wouldn’t want to upset her.