Recently I had published a shortish biography of my father:
Jim Wall An Australian Life 1893-1965, to be released in a batch of 50 copies.
The publishing and printing costs came to $28 per copy, and to post a copy within Australia is about $2. This means that to charge $30 per copy there is no profit made. Of course, added to this one is also inclined to give most copies away for nothing!
I have to admit that the quality of my work is nothing compared to the books written by my friend, the Commander! He also self-publishes, but it is rumoured that his latest novel is being looked at with interest by MGM!
In the line of authorship I’m talking about; after the actual work has been printed, one often finds mistakes that one has made – be they grammatical, factual, or other ability lapses, much to one’s embarrassment!
How much more so must I suffer if ever the work I’ve produced should come to the notice of a legal friend of mine, a noted grammarian and specialist in the uses and abuses of ‘whom’ and ‘who’ in written English. He is said to have an eagle eye in spotting split infinitives – never would he allow one ‘to boldly go’, but only ‘to go boldly’! He might say that he heard a reader express an opinion that he or she could have written better!
It’s not all gloom and doom in relation to the above work. Some have paid me handsomely to receive a copy. Many readers have made interesting comments, which I’ll attempt to summarize.
From a reader:
“I’m afraid I found your father … well, not the saint you attempt to portray him as. The picture on the cover shows a nervous boy totally out of his depth. What were they thinking allowing him into a women’s hospital? He marries a first cousin, knowing the risks, and then he keeps her permanently pregnant! He says ‘how absurd’ when he is told his wife has an exhausted uterus. By now, I was, really disliking him. I thought the cartoon your mother copied and sent to him was telling … ‘Mussolini says so.’ It obviously went right over his head. Perhaps a more honest portrayal would have humanised him more?? All I could see was a reason for you to be a very long way away and out of touch. Whatever happened to you and why on the plantation? Keeping your mother in the dark is not protective, it’s controlling! I hope the writing helped you… what is the saying? To damn by faint praise??? Have you ever read Christina Stead? The Man Who Loved Children… Thank you for sharing, and I hope the critique does not wound.”
A comment from a relative:
“Thank you very much for the information about our family, and especially about Uncle Jim. It makes me proud to feel one comes from such a substantial family.”
From a reader:
“You could have called it: The life of a Catholic doctor in Australia, 1893-1965. Although a lot of it is for the benefit of the family, you can’t write a biography without raising a lot of wider issues and brushing the socio-political background. This short bio factually and succinctly paints the life in the country at the beginning of the 20th century. A bit like the impressionists: little brush strokes that, together, create the feel of the time and place, even though most of it is left to the imagination. I quite enjoyed reading it and looking for context that was hidden behind, such as diseases, education, religious and moral issues or surprising facts such as the nuns of Chambéry in Norway, which puzzled me. I worked in Chambéry, France, but I did not know that St Joseph of Chambéry had opened in 1865 and spread throughout Europe. I often walked to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s house of Les Charmettes, at night at the light of sodium lamps piercing the ubiquitous fog; and admired the famous Elephant fountain “des Quatre-sans-cul” celebrating Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps at that place. Thanks for bringing the past back to life so vividly. I also enjoyed the many old photographs.”
From a would-be reader:
“I think I’ll wait till I’ve finished this novel before acquainting myself with the delights of Jim Wall’s life. Wonderful picture on the front, though I hope the setting isn’t some Catholic baby farm or punitive home for unmarried mothers.”
From a well wisher:
“I’m sure those 50 copies will be gone soon! (meaning bought by friends)”
From a thrifty and hopeful reader:
“The book would be fascinating, but I will decline. I’ll borrow it from a library!!”
From an impressed reader:
“Thanks for the book it’s so great!! Congratulations.”
From my sister:
“Thank you for the book. I enjoyed reading it & thought it was well written & a good account of Pa’s life. He would have been upset with the scandals in the Church.”
Deborah, my wife, thinks this article is ‘ridiculous’, and she wonders about what I’m trying to do! I guess she’s right, and I wonder too!
By the way, there are 20 books left at $30 a copy!