Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Readers of pp will know that this time last year I was staying in Silver Spring with my mother, who had had an operation. She went in for a second operation toward the end of January, four days before I was due to go back to Berlin. We had been told this would be very simple and straightforward; she was in surgery 6 hours, and after one night on the regular ward was moved to intensive care. I asked my agent again for the ARC of his memoir, which he had been promising to send; he said none were left as he had been keeping his distance from that side of things. I pressed the point, and he resigned. It has been a long bad year.

I went over to New York at the end of September for a few weeks in the hope that I could talk to some editors. I'd been told there were a lot of people who liked my work; I didn't know who they were but hoped something might turn up. People were extraordinarily generous with their time.

There have been some developments; as always, it takes reserves of patience and goodwill for things to work out.

It seems as though I sometimes say things on the blog that provoke hurt feelings among readers. I try to explain that there are things I can't deal with at a bad time, and get e-mails from people whose feelings have been hurt because things they thought were helpful were the kind of thing I couldn't deal with.

In the past, this kind of thing that has made deals fall through. It seemed best not to say anything for a while, and try to take things forward as best I could.

When I was at Oxford we were dragooned into answering the question we had been asked, rather than some other question we happened to find easier to answer. When my agent resigned I could not see a way forward and thought suicide the only solution; card-carrying rationalist that I am, I thought he might see a solution I did not and that therefore the rational thing to do was ask. So I wrote an e-mail. I did get a reply, but it did not answer the question. I then got several e-mails from the reader who had introduced us, which also did not answer the question. If I had known that going to New York to talk to people would be so helpful and productive I would simply have taken a plane to New York.

I have been rereading Orlando Patterson's Slavery and Social Death, a superb work of scholarship which no home should be without.

I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.


Nathaniel_in_NM said...

Happy New Year, Helen. As always, I wish you well.

Aetheling said...

Happy New Year! I do hope things look up.

Jenny Davidson said...

It is my ambition (but possibly one which I will never execute, as that sort of long-term research project is not truly my metier) to write a book of which it could be said "a superb work of scholarship which no home should be without"!

Best wishes for the new year, Helen - it was a pleasure meeting you in New York, and I will hope to see you again not too long from now.

languagehat said...

Slavery and Social Death has graced my shelves since June of 1986 (or so the flyleaf says), and I have often recommended it to people since. I'm glad you've discovered it.

Needless to say, I'm also glad you've found a way through the latest apparent impasse, and I join with the others in wishing you a much better 2011.

Susan Burke said...

Author DeWitt,
Please go nowhere toward death. You're original.

GPB said...

Happy New Year Helen!

Its a better world with you in it!

Anonymous said...

you don't suck. far from it. happy new year.

bernardo moraes bueno said...

Your book was one of the two I brought to England with me when I moved. It's brilliant. Happy new year!

R J Keefe said...

It is both and honor and a pleasure to read this site.

sunny said...


I don't know if you've heard of it and if it could be of any help, but at there is a group for authors: - maybe a possibility to find out about new publishers?

There are also other options for authors on LT:

Best wishes!


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! The Last Samurai was by far the best book that I read last year. All the best from Thomas in Hoboken New Jersey