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.