Pick Yourself Up | Pushing the Wave

Pick Yourself Up

Opinion, 15 October 2022
by L.A. Davenport
Love for All
Love for All, graffiti in Athens, Greece
When I was young and first falling in love with newspapers and journalism, I quickly discovered the delights of The Column, that weekly exercise in wry and sometimes witty life-dredging that aims not exactly to inform but certainly to entertain. There have been many greats who have lifted the art form to dizzy heights, far too many to mention, and I have many of their collected works on my bookshelves.

I have always dreamed of having a column of my own and getting the opportunity to pontificate on life and our times on a regular basis. Sadly, making zero effort to land such a gig has not helped me achieve my aim, so now, belatedly, I decided that my best chance is to commission myself to write one on my own website.

I hope you like. If you do, why don’t you Contact me, and we can keep the discussion going.
Getting back behind the desk is never easy after a holiday, but it has been strangely easier this time than after previous vacations. I wonder if, having a young family, the fact that we didn’t once have a lie-in or any form of real rest meant that we never really escaped from the daily routine.

At least I didn’t work during the holiday, which was certainly good for my brain and my spirit. And ambling around bits of Greece, enjoying the late summer sun, and the relatively empty beaches and sights at the end of the season, was certainly different from the daily grind at home.

Also, everything is easy in Greece. The people are lovely and nothing is a problem. Pretty much anything you want can be arranged, especially if it means having a delicious cocktail and nibbles towards the end of the day while the children play in the sand.

It wasn’t all drinks and lazing about, however. At least not on the inside, even if it may have seemed that way to the casual observer. As usual when I travel, my brain whirred and fizzed. There is something about the change of scene, the novelty of new places and cultures to explore, the opportunity to see how other people live, and even the change in food and drink, that sparks my imagination.

I experience this when I travel for work, although the effect is different. It’s partly because I have so much more time alone when I am travelling for work, and I am typically quite stressed and under pressure. Here, in the layback calm of Greece, my mind wandered aimlessly and amiably, and I found myself thinking about how to move forward not only with my writing but also with my creative life in general.

Last February, my second novel The Nucleus of Reality, or the Recollections of Thomas P—, was published. While it received good reviews overall, it was unfortunately torpedoed at launch by a single reviewer.

I had entered the book into a blog tour and it must be acknowledged that, in retrospect, the people who signed up to read and review the book were not the right audience and didn’t really appreciate it as much as they might.

That is, of course, absolutely their right. We can’t like everything, and those who didn’t like it were absolutely free to say whatever they wanted. And they did. Usually politely, sometimes kindly, but no punches were held.

Even at the time, I was grateful to hear their considered thoughts, and they were extremely considered. I learned a lot, even if it was painful sometimes to have to absorb what they said. I was also relieved that, in general, those with views on the more negative side were happy to leave them on their blogs, and if they submitted something to Amazon, the tone was more neutral, while being true to themselves.

One reviewer on the blog tour, however, took it upon herself to leave a one-star review on Amazon, despite having admitted that she only read around 20% of the book. And not just on Amazon UK. She took the trouble to go to Amazon.com and submit it there as well.

The consequence was that, although The Nucleus of Reality overall received positive and warm reviews, especially once those from outside the blog tour started to come in, the first impression was that it was bad. One star bad. (The picture is even worse on Goodreads, with two one star reviews, the second from someone who confessed that they didn’t understand the book.)

The result? The Nucleus of Reality was dead in the water.

Leaving aside questions as to whether or not being unable to finish or not understanding a book should mean it merits one star, those of us in the writing trade have to acknowledge that Amazon is the main source of book sales. So for a book to receive a one-star review on Day One means no sales. It sold quite well pre-launch, giving me a certain sense of optimism, but not afterwards.

I didn’t expect The Nucleus of Reality to be universally loved but I guess I thought it deserved more than to be simply dismissed out of hand by people who review books, if not for a living then for the promotion of writing and reading as an idea. Maybe I was too thin-skinned, but my confidence was badly knocked.

In the intervening 18 months or so, I have written half a novel and three quarters of the follow-up to My Life as a Dog. While the later in particular went well, it was clear that I still hadn’t got over my, what? Disappointment? Shock? Sadness?

On holiday, finally, I acknowledged that I have to put it behind me and move on, and writing this weekly column is an attempt to start doing that. I suppose I am aiming to reboot my writing, from the beginning. I learned a lot from getting to the point of seeing The Nucleus of Reality published, now it’s time to put those lessons into practice.
One of the revelations of the holiday was found not on the beaches of Crete, but in a graffitied alley tucked away in the back streets of Athens. I had met the owner of a record store online while searching for a reasonably priced copy of a boxed set I was after. Having realised not only that the shop was in Athens but also a few streets away from our apartment, I asked him to put the set, the complete Sony recordings of Daniel Barenboim, to one side.

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived, but the shop was a modern day Aladdin’s cave, stuffed to the brim with every conceivable kind of music on vinyl, cassette and CD. It was so incredible that, immediately on entering, I told myself I could not even start to look at anything other than what I was there to get. Otherwise, I would spend a fortune, loose a day of my holiday, and annoy my family.

As it was, I left with four more box sets than I planned to buy and was grateful when I found he had left out one of my purchases and would be forced to go back. Ho hum. That netted me three more CD sets. Even now, I am plotting when I could go back to Athens and give free rein to my desires.
Two films this week, potentially on opposite ends of some sort of spectrum, although both recalling an apparently long forgotten tradition of cinematic storytelling: Top Gun: Maverick and Taxi Driver.

I had seen neither before. Both were hugely impressive and both have stayed with me. As for Top Gun, Tom Cruise should be praised for keeping that strand of Hollywood history and culture alive, which he seems to be doing single-handedly. And they did Tony Scott proud.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Pick Yourself Up | Pushing the Wave