Reading to an audience of three? - Hah! I was one of a duo who read to an audience of one. Mistaken for another author? Pah! I was mistaken for a dead author. Background noise? Child's play! I mean that literally. I once was subjected to a hoard of sugar-high children in the corridor of an Art Gallery during a Christmas Nutcracker Tea. Which couldn't, by the way, have a more appropriate name. Mortifying!? Jeez Louise, this is Canada. Grow a pair.
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Mortifying moments? Canadian authors could fill a book RUSSELL SMITH
Everyone enjoys stories of failure. Reading a compilation of rock stars’ anecdotes about their absolute worst gigs, I was actually jealous of their kind of humiliation.
The piece was in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago, just a list of short memories by members of pop bands as varied as Jethro Tull and the Jonas Brothers, and they mostly involved on-stage disasters of the kind you’d associate with rock ’n’ roll – being soaked in urine and threatened by skinheads and having a stoned bass player collapse on stage. All that must have been stressful but at least it’s glamorous. It happened in front of audiences.
Writers love this particular conversation – what is your most humiliating public appearance? – because our public abjection is of a slightly different kind (it usually involves a realization that despite all your interviews on the CBC, you have no audience), and because it seems to encapsulate the fundamental truth that what we do is and will remain solitary despite all kinds of learned critical response and blogging.
I’ve been beaten to this by a book of such reminiscences, called Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame (edited by Robin Robertson). And by The Onion, of course, whose eerily accurate faux-news story “Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It's Just 3 People Or A Crowd Of 9 People” captures the brave tone that even well-known authors adopt when they face the serried ranks of empty chairs in the big-box bookstore. I canvassed a few Canadian authors about their most humiliating public appearances, as a sort of subdued and Canadian counterpart to the rock stars’ disasters.