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Sunday, August 27, 2006


Yesterday I did something I said I would never do.

No, I didn’t fuck a married man. This girl does have some principles you know. (And as Groucho said, if you don’t like them, I have others.)

Nor did I have a frig in a public place. (Being fingered by someone else doesn’t count. Right?)

Instead, I lowered myself to such a desperate level of patheticness, it was as if I have no shame at all: I moseyed on down to my local Waterstones, for the first time since its release, in the hope that I might spot my own book.

I know, it’s shallow of me, and buying from a chain doesn’t exactly support my neighbourhood independent bookshop; but I just had to see if they were stocking my book – since that’s where most people would be buying it from – so I swallowed my anti-corporate ethics for a brief hypocritical moment, and hopped on the bus down to the shops.

I didn’t expect to encounter my book in my local shop’s window display; I was chuffed to see five of them, right in the centre of it, alongside Zadie Smith and Sam Bourne. A little glimmer of excitement began in my belly (OK, and between my legs slightly too; my happy and pleasure buttons seem to be connected) and I entered the store.

To my complete joy, my book was slap bang on the centre of the first table at the front of the shop, in the ‘3 for 2’ offers. Blimey. Twelve copies on display; pushing up against Lionel Shriver and Ali Smith. Fuck me. (Seriously, fuck me; take me from behind as I lean over the table and scatter all the books onto the floor in wild, abandoned, gleeful passion).

Though my paranoia-alert button was set on low for the first time in weeks, I still tried to look inconspicuous, just in case, well, someone in there had read the Guardian interview and might know what I looked like. Not that anyone cares of course; I just didn’t want to get caught looking at my own book. That would be sad, and I have a reputation as a cool, laid-back, nonchalant author to uphold. So with a sophisticated trouser suit on, my hair pulled back into a ponytail, and dark glasses in place, I pretended I was just a normal customer and not a pathetic author inwardly rejoicing about their book being on display. So I quickly moved away from the table to continue book shopping.

Sometime later, with a pile of books in my arms (give me a credit card and a bookshop and I cannot help myself), I returned to the table. How sad would I be, I thought, if I were to pick up the book, take it to the counter, and ask the cashier pointed questions about it? I concluded that I would be very sad indeed and that only completely narcissistic, self-absorbed and ego-maniacal people would do such a thing. Which of course, I am, so I immediately grabbed the book, placed it under the heap I was carrying, and made my way to the cash register.

When the cashier got to the last book of the pile - my own book - I stopped her scanning it in.

‘Do you know anything about that?’ I asked, trying to look mildly, but not overly, interested.

‘I haven’t read it’, she admitted, ‘but it’s supposed to be great.’

‘Oh, really?’ I said, as if I wasn’t bothered either way. ‘What’s it about?’

‘It’s a personal diary,’ she replied. ‘The author has written for the Guardian’ she added.

No, I wanted to correct her, she hasn’t written for the Guardian (not yet, anyway); she was featured in the Guardian, and wrote for the Independent on Sunday.

‘Oh, I see’ I said, as casually as I could, praising a god that doesn’t exist, for my having taken some acting classes many years ago, and thus able to make a decent poker-face.

‘We’ve been getting really good feedback’ she volunteered. ‘It’s been selling very well.’

Oh my fucking god, I wanted to say, leaping for joy and leaning over the desk to kiss her. But I kept my composure by remembering that she was a sales woman: it was in her interest to make me think the book was worth buying.

‘Is that so?’ I said.

‘Yes, it’s been flying out recently.’ She began tapping into the computer keyboard. ‘24 copies in the last week’ she said, somewhat triumphantly I noted. ‘It’s very popular.’

I bit my lip and tried not to appear overjoyed.

‘So, would you like it then?’

I shook my head. ‘Nah, I think I’ve got enough for today; I’ll have a think about it and maybe buy it next time’.

I quickly paid for my books and slipped out the store, and for the first time in three weeks, I had a massive smile on my face.

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