It was Thomas Sowell who said “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”
This is why I’m turning today not to one of the great intellectuals, but to PG Wodehouse; to be specific, his book ‘Cocktail Time’. The book is about the first novel (also called Cocktail Time) written by one of the leading characters and his experiences really hit home. You can tell PG Wodehouse was writing from the heart.
To quote the great man,
“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”
The book gets modest reviews, is regarded as competent, and then the author gets his break.
“But Fame was merely crouching for the spring, simply waiting in the wings, as it were, for the cue which would bring it bounding on stage to drape the chaplet about the brow of its favoured son”
You have to admit that there aren’t many who can write like that now! To cut out a lot of beautiful prose, the book is spotted by a Bishop no less.
“At 12:15 the following Sunday he was in the pulpit of the church of St Jude the Resilient, Eaton Square, delivering a sermon on the text ‘He that touches pitch shall be defiled,’ [Ecclesiasticus 13-1] which had the fashionable congregation rolling in the aisles and tearing up the pews. The burden of his address was a denunciation of the novel Cocktail Time in the course of which he described it as obscene, immoral, shocking, impure, corrupt, shameless, graceless and depraved, and all over the sacred edifice you could see eager men jotting the name down on their shirt cuffs, scarcely able to wait to add it to their library list.”
Obviously from this point on, you can see that the book was going to be a best seller. Wodehouse rounds things off with the comment
“Just as all American publishers hope that if they are good and lead upright lives, their books will be banned in Boston, so do all English publishers pray that theirs will be denounced from the pulpit by a good bishop. Full statistics are not to hand, but it is estimated by competent judges, that a good bishop, denouncing from the pulpit with the right organ note in his voice, can add between ten and fifteen thousand to the sales.”
So this is where I’m going wrong in my marketing. I’m now frantically scouring my address book wondering if there’s a bishop in there who owes me a favour.
And also, as a professional courtesy, it seems only right that having quoted from PG’s book; I should tell you where to buy it.