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Gnarled Tree Press is about to hit the literary jackpot. We’re talking, of course, about our forthcoming game show, Book Snuff. It’s based on a simple premise. There are too many writers in the world. Let’s kill some of them off. So how are we going to get writers to take part? Simple. Here’s our publicity mail out:
Writers! Ever thought you’d sell more books if you were dead? Well now’s your chance. Book Snuff is the ultimate Great Career Move. Pitch yourself against your arch-rivals in a winner-takes-all scenario.
What you get:
- A posthumous publishing deal with Gnarled Tree Press imprint Snuff Books.
- Representation by superagent Felicity Gush.
- The chance to present your own obituary to an appreciative audience.
- A lifetime supply of Euthanasia kits.
What you pitch:
- A one-paragraph blurb of the book you’d like to be remembered by.
- A short extract in the style of yourself.
- The ideal setting for your own posthumous book launch.
- Original ideas for your – also posthumous – bespoke marketing campaign.
We’ll also shamelessly exploit:
- Your teenage diary.
- Your most humiliating rejection slips.
- Your best sex scene – with ambient soundscapes courtesy of the Ukelele Orchestra of Moate.
Finally, you get to choose the manner of your own death, the wording on your tombstone, and the book you’d like to be buried with. You’ve already got The Bible, The Torah, The Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Mormon, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and, a nod here to the all-important kiddie market, The Pop-up Koran.
Book Snuff was devised in 1920 by emerging author Virginia Woolf, in an ill-fated attempt to murder fellow author James Joyce. She was furious with Joyce, it seems, for being even more incomprehensible than she was. The plan backfired when she ended up winning the first grand final herself. Her career has not looked back since. Winners of subsequent finals include Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Yukio Mishima.
INTERESTING FACT: Hunter S. Thompson was runner up in 2005. Turns out he was bad loser. In a fit of pique he committed suicide.
OTHER INTERESTING FACT: Ms. Woolf, or Miss Woolf as she was known in those days, offered Book Snuff to the BBC Home Service. She was turned down on the grounds that the BBC didn’t exist at the time. This is typical of the BBC. Any excuse to avoid controversy.
But enough of this morbidity. No point dwelling on it. And what better way to escape the reality of this vale of tears we call life than to retreat into the world of childhood courtesy of the Gnarled Tree Press children’s list. Example: Leading child psychologist Dr. I. Kerr has just updated some of our best-loved fairy tales for the now child. Let’s open the book at a random page, shall we? Page tooty too? Only joking, kiddies. Ha ha. But seriously though. The Princess and the Pea. Super choice. Are you sitting comfortably? Then he’ll begin.
‘Once upon a time there was this beautiful princess. I don’t recall the precise details but there was something about sleeping on a mattress with a pea under it. Couldn’t get to sleep, see? So they put another mattress on top.
Still no use.
But you get the idea. It took 26 mattresses – yes, 26! – before she got a smooth night’s sleep. And all because this tiny little pea was digging into the small of her back.’
‘The mattresses, however, were piled so high that she slept with her face pressed right up to the ceiling. So she woke in the morning with – you’ve guessed it! – a flat nose. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘A flat nose! That’s terrible! And in one so young and beautiful!’
True, perhaps, but worse, much worse, was to follow.’
‘Fact is, she’d forgotten she was sleeping on 26 mattresses so she leapt out of bed to greet the dawn and fell, yes, fell, the height of 26 sturdy pea-resistant mattresses and a sheet, to her pitiful, inglorious, untimely, unavoidable death! Tragic I grant you, and all because of one tiny little pea.
Although, to be perfectly fair, the pea was in a tin at the time.’
Ah. More death. Still, I suppose the good doctor knows what he’s doing. One of the principal lessons from a close reading of the past is that we’re all going to die. And death is no respecter of wealth, social status or, as Dr. Kerr might point out if pressed on the subject, first time readers.
Ian Macpherson is taking a break from Loose Trousers. His website www.ianmacpherson.net will keep acolytes and casual browsers up to date on The Book of Blaise, The Autobiography of Ireland’s Greatest Living Genius, The Everlasting Book Tour and other exciting developments. Latest News: His seminal Late Late Show performance, The Man Who Died For Ireland Twice In The One Day, will be broadcast by RTE on Easter Sunday 2016, in a stunning example of creative rescheduling. It replaces the Angelus.