Since the world revolves around me, let me say that there are two kinds of readers in the world: Those who read my first book first…
…and think that When Wanderers Cease to Roam is the kind of book I should always write…
…and those who read my second book first…
…and think Le Road Trip isn’t as bad as the first kind of reader thinks it is.
It’s like with me and Paul Weller. I first heard Paul Weller and LOVED him when he headed The Style Council, in the mid-1980s:
With The Style Council, Paul Weller did music that dipped into his love of Motown and French existentialism. His stuff was very pretty, often sad, and richly melodic, very romantic. His voice is mature and world-weary, tempered with self-knowledge and humor, and he sings like an old soul in an almost American accent.
It wasn’t until 15 years later that I discovered he had a first group, The Jam:
With The Jam, Paul Weller mixed his deep roots in the Mod mode of pop/rock with songs that used the prevailing punk ethos to fuel the loud, urgent, and political music he made. Paul sang in a heavy London accent that had the rawness and allure of a young man bursting with a mission to change the world.
People who were Paul Weller fans in the early 1980s prefer The Jam over The Style Council. But because I got to know Paul Weller in his second incarnation first, rather than in his first manifestation first, I’ve never been able to understand that. I will always LOVE The Style Council first, even though I have way more Jam records (original vinyl, CD box set).
(I also have the Style Council box set, but I’ve spent much, much more time and money on eBay UK to find Jam rarities. But I listen more to my Style Council CDs than I do The Jam, when not keeping up with Paul Weller’s amazing 20-year solo career.)
But getting back to me:
I am still learning a lot about book writing, and feedback from readers is the only way I’ll get any better because one thing’s for sure, I am never going to “workshop” a book in progress in a room full of writers. Other writers, in my limited but vile experience, are the worst critics. Either they are too mealy-mouthed because god forbid they tread on the fragile artist ego, or they are too embittered by the writing life to be the least bit encouraging –
– either way, writers are the most unreliable people out there in the Book World. That’s why I depend on my dear readers to keep it real. You readers are committed to books in a way that I totally understand. You depend on books to help you furnish a richly appointed inner life…
…or as accessories in a more literal sense. I totally get that.
Now, I have heard from readers who read my first book first that my second book suffers by comparison, in that Le Road Trip is not as free-ranging a narrative as the one they enjoyed in When Wanderers Cease to Roam. I completely accept that criticism: if I had been a more experienced writer maybe I could have trusted myself to wander off-topic as I moseyed around France. That is after all my experience of travel: your mind does wander much farther than your feet. As it was, I set myself the narrow goal of writing just about this one trip in France with occasional back flashes to my first few solo forays to my favorite foreign country, and within those parameters I am happy that I accomplished a book that takes my readers to places where we can share memories, dreams, desire, and wish lists of France. First things first, you know, and in this book my first priority was France.
The most delightful criticism I have read, so far, from a reader who read this second book first (and obviously did not know what she was in for) is that half-way though Le Road Trip she got tired of all the cats, already.
I rarely burst out laughing while reading a negative review, but this one made me almost choke on my tea. Forget travel, France, books: Life itself and yours truly IS NOTHING without cats. Right? Well, at least Wanderers had a cat on its cover, so fair warning there; maybe I should put a cat on the cover of my garden book:
But I thank all you readers who have suggested that I go back to my Wanderers roots and be more of a roamer in my next book, which will be somewhat easier to do than with the Damn France Book since the garden book is a travelog of the ten most unusual, interesting, dopey, intellectual, idiosyncratic, overwhelming, romantic, and inspiring gardens I’ve experienced in Africa, South America, Europe, and the USA.
But I do warn you that if you don’t like cats, you can not come with me to the special garden in Key West. Because (as I say in the Key West chapter), if you don’t like cats…
…you have no business hanging at in Key West. They are everywhere in the Conch Republic.
Thank you, Dear Commentors and Readers, for your get well wishes last week. All the nuisance paperwork since the emergency room visit has been filed, surgery is scheduled for next Friday, Top Cat has stocked the fridge with champagne and angel food cake for my recovery.
Question of the Day: Style Council, Or Jam? 1940s Frankie Sinatra teen idol or 1950 Chairman of the Board? Orlando Bloom blond Elf, or Orlando Bloom brunet pirate? Electric Dylan or Folkie Bob? Star Trek Next Generation Picard or Star Trek Original Kirk? OR BOTH?