The People's Friend

My copy of the People's Friend arrived today, with the first part of The Curiosity Cabinet which has been abridged for the magazine in a number episodes.
There is a wonderful two page illustration, with all the characters: Alys, Donal (very handsome) Manus (not so handsome) and Henrietta. It has a real period feel and it reminds me of those magazines I used to look at in the doctor's waiting room when I was a little girl. (I was an asthmatic child, and spent rather a lot of my time in doctors' waiting rooms.) In fact it took me straight back to those days with an astonishing vividness of touch, taste and smell. And I wished that my dear late mum could have been around to share the moment. Magic.
Incidentally, I wonder if anyone else is terminally bored by some of today's waiting room offerings. And is it a sign of encroaching middle age that I invariably find myself asking for Country Living or Homes and Gardens in the hairdresser's, instead of Hello which everyone else seems to be fighting over?
Anyway, I digress. The mag arrived from the book publisher, Polygon, with an unsigned compliments slip. I don't think the People's Friend sits very well with their image of themselves as publishers of cutting edge crime fiction, and reprints of Scottish classics, but I am delirious, and if it sells some more copies of the novel, I will be even more pleased. There was just something about the juxtaposition of this fabulously traditional magazine, and the meaningfully silent compliments slip that made me roar with laughter. I am so sick of literary snobbery. If I can write something that a Whitbread prizewinning poet, whose work I admire, finds to be a "powerful novel about love and obligation" which at the same time appeals to the vast readership of People's Friend (and believe me, it is vast) then I feel I might just be doing something worthwhile. I spent as much time honing every last bit of The Curiosity Cabinet as - in a previous incarnation - I would have spent on a poem. Then spent much too long feeling apologetic about it because it's a love story. But everything about it was meant. Considered. Sometimes, when people talk to me or email me, I find that they have tapped into that intention. But if they simply think it's a good read, about real people, with a modicum of emotional truth, then that's fine by me.
All this reminded me about the worst thing anyone ever said about the book, long before it was shortlisted for a prize, praised by a poet and thus found a (slightly embarrassed) publisher. This was a comment by a jaundiced male agent, (of which more in a future post about "Finding an Agent") who wrote to me to the effect that it was merely a "library" novel, aimed only at "housewives", thus managing to insult not just me, but stay-at-home mums, libraries, Andrew Carnegie and all. As a friend of mine is fond of saying "It would bust you, wouldn't it?"

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