Some people can juggle. I don't know why they want to, but they can. Others can
dive, learn languages quickly, play the flute, walk into rooms without crashing
into the doorframe. I can do none of these things but I do have *modest
cough* other talents. I can raise one eyebrow (self-taught); spit cherry stones
impressive distances; recite a Latin poem about the death of a sparrow, find
fossils and throw javelins (yes, OK, I live in the olden days). And, more
usefully, I can do shout lines.
I don't mean the classic shout line: a moving story of love and war. No; we're talking about the more (I hope) intriguing, catchy, possibly slightly facetious kind. Tell me what a book's about (NB we're in the realms of theory here. Don't test me) and I might, might, be able to come up with a line which makes you want to read it.
Except, I discover, when the book is by me.
Tomorrow, I'm being filmed, videoed, I don't know, something modern, to promote the slowly-forthcoming publication of my new novel. I need an elevator pitch. I need snappy answers. I need, in short, a tempting way to describe what the book's about.
I HAVE NO IDEA. Because those 85,000 words were dragged from me by wild horses, ahem, actually just casually tossed down on the page, I seem to lack the necessary perspective to describe the novel temptingly. Or, indeed, at all.
Clearly – as Tom Lehrer, my guide to life, so wisely said – I need to plagiarise. The problem is that because the book isn’t out until August, my plagiarees are limited. One of them, a clever young bookseller from I think the Newham Bookshop, hadn’t even read it yet – but when I described its seventeen-year-old protagonist’s unfortunate burden of appalling squareness, sexual inexperience, immigrant shame and inchoate yearning, she said: ‘oh right, it’s about the Ugly Years.’
The other was the brilliant Pippa Wright, one of Britain’s funniest women and a fellow Macmillan author, who described it as ‘Prep, but with added elderly Hungarians’.
So there we have it. It’s going to be a short video, yes, but very snappy.