A collection of stories from some of the world's greatest writers about their own public humiliation. Humiliation is not, of course, unique to writers. However, the world of letters does seem to offer a near-perfect micro-climate for embarrassment and shame. There is something about the conjunction of high-mindedness and low income that is inherently comic; something about the very idea of deeply private thoughts - carefully worked and honed into art over the years - being presented to a public audience of dubious strangers, that strays perilously close to tragedy. Here, in over eighty contributions, are stories about the writer's audience, the fellow readers, the organiser, the venue, the 'hospitality', or the often interminable journey there and back. Then there are the experiences of teaching and being taught, reviewing and being reviewed, of festivals and writers' retreats, symposia, signing sessions, literary parties and prizes, the trips abroad, with all the attendant joys of translation and, finally, the bright worlds of television and radio that can bring so many more people to share in your shame. These are the best stories: those told against the teller.
And for the reader, apart from the sheer schadenfreude of it all, there is admiration too: for that acknowledgement of human frailty, of punctured pride, but also of the seeming absurdity of trying to bring private art into the public space. Contributions from, amongst others: Simon Armitage, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Louis de Bernieres, Margaret Drabble, Roddy Doyle, AL Kennedy, John Lanchester, Patrick McCabe, Rick Moody, Andrew Motion, Andrew O'Hagan, Colm Toibin, Irvine Welsh, James Wood.
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(197mm x 130mm x 20mm)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Public humiliation, shame, acute embarrassment - how we love to witness these social nightmares happening to other people! And how much more entertaining it is when these occasions of buttock-clenching awfulness include alcoholic degradation, sexual incontinence and loss of bowel control, not to mention the dreadful prospect of a total lack of audience. In this thoroughly entertaining collection, Robin Robertson has somehow persuaded (coerced? bribed? blackmailed?), an astonishingly large number of writers and poets to share the secrets of their "public shame". These delicious morsels of schadenfreude range from the ignominy of the writer giving of his all to rows of empty plastic chairs, to the horror of Irvine Welsh's exploding underpants and Niall Griffiths' extremely inconvenient erection. Some will make you laugh, others will make you cringe, yet others will reduce you to cushion-biting sympathy. This collection is an inspiration, as well as a consolation to every writer who has thrown up in front of his single-figure audience, or cowered behind an unsold pile of books in Waterstone's. Robertson has tapped a well that will, inevitably, never run dry. For while there are poets and writers prepared to bare their souls on the public stage for the price of a cheese toastie and a few glasses of Rioja, there will be mortifications a-plenty. Read, laugh and enjoy, but remember to salute the courage of these brave souls who have shared their darkest moments, and are probably, even now, bitterly regretting it. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Robin Robertson
Robin Robertson is an editor and an award-winning poet. He lives in London.