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On books, jealousy and envy

Jefferson Galt

When life warps time, things get silly.

It's one of those days. My alter ego has been working frantically on something that requires a brain the size of a planet (thanks,Douglas Adams, for that phrase ) and the patience of Job (without an "s" - the one with an "s" was not very patient, by all accounts).

I forgot to go to bed last night because I was working. So when I woke up, head down on my keyboard, the return key having imprinted itself on my forehead and created a document that was huge and only stopped getting huger when the over-run buffer in my PC was full, I had almost missed phoning Starfish before she hopped on a plane for the first leg of a journey that will take her (literally) half-way round the world and then, bizarrely, back instead of just keeping going.

And, because I was rushing, I ballsed up making an on-line order to get something delivered to Starfish's hotel on one of her stops. "Darling, I've sent a present to your hotel to welcome you when you arrive." "It's the wrong hotel, idiot," she said as she raced from taxi to check in.

Bollocks.

And I tried so hard to fight my way through an impenetrable ordering system that refused to allow me to put four items into the same order (apparently it is possible but nothing on the website tells me how, even now I know what to look for after they told me when I moaned at them). So instead of one package, now Starfish has to trek half-way across town, pick up four packages and trek back to where she is actually staying. If I were her, I'd open the boxes when she picks them up and if she doesn't like what's in them, give the contents away to anyone who looks like they might like them. But she won't do that because she's not me. And if she had sent it to me, I'd battle through storms and traffic to make sure I picked up whatever she wanted to surprise me with, even though I am me.

Worse, because the four orders are being shipped separately, there was a separate (and ridiculously expensive) delivery charge for each item. Eventually, I worked out, despite the deep discount I had at that particular outlet, (I like discounts: keep 'em coming) I would have been charged less if I'd bought the product for much more from Amazon.com but had free shipping. Sometimes special offers aren't so special.

I have sore eyes. I've been crying and rubbing them. Someone posted a link to a website (www.27bslash6.com ) that I started to read and then literally couldn't see the screen any more because of the tears. Yes, it's really that funny. and now I'm envious. Not jealous, just envious.

Then I found out something else: David Thorne , whose website it is, has collected stuff from his websites and had them published in a book called "The Internet is a Playground." And he's got a second book out now, rapidly capitalising on the success of the first just a year ago.

OK, I'm a little bit jealous that his books have been picked up by Penguin and have their marketing muscle behind them but I'm more envious of his ability to write some of the funniest stuff it's been my pleasure to read since I fell off the sofa I was lying on the first time I read The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("Yellow." - you have to read it to understand it and, for Heaven's sake, get one with English spelling - link below - not the awful Americanised version).

Actually, although I didn't realise it at first, I've heard of David Thorne before. Does anyone remember that e-mail circular that went viral a few years ago when someone replied to a demand for payment of a bill by sending, instead of money, a drawing of a spider saying that it was worth, in his opinion, an amount equal to the amount of the bill? Well, that was David Thorne. And reading that again now, it's every bit as funny as it was then. It's a bit like the Henry Root letters (the first book) that, also was capable of bringing me down with the giggles and guffaws. Gosh, that was a long time ago.

David Thorne 's book is probably in American. At first I thought that was fine, because he's American. Although having said that, his style of English is such that I wasn't at all sure he was actually American at all. Maybe, I thought, he's just not from New York or LA: that's where most of the dreadful stuff seems to come from. There are many American authors who are a pleasure to read, they just get drowned out by the dictates of fashion and the screeches of pretension and supposed modernity. Balls to them. Give me someone who makes me laugh with genuine humour and simplicity and I'm happy. And right now, I'm very happy.

Then I found out he's from New Zealand. I think. If I have correctly identified his accent from a snippet of a conversation I found on the 'web. And I found a Facebook page for David Thorne from Cambridge, New Zealand who looks completely different but has a similar sense of humour. I hope Penguin have published the books in New Zealandish (which is closer to English than American). And it explains the sense of humour. Think "Flight of the Conchords" and you are half-way to seeing why Thorne's stuff is so funny. And his accent was very reminiscent of that bloke that plays the band's manager. He must be from New Zealand.

Then I found that Wikipedia (which, of course is always right, right?) says Thorne is Australian. And an NPR interview that says he's from Adelaide. So which is fake, the accent on the interview or the publicly available history? I dunno. I give up. Stuff where he's from, he's just hilarious. But I hope the books are in Australian. (see update)

I want copies of both of his books. I like books. Starfish and I have a library. Who, these days, has a library? A real one with shelves and books and things? Even large comfy chairs to sit (together or alone) in and wriggle and fidget and snuggle down in? But I'm working far from home and in a place where Kindle (which doesn't give me the tactile pleasure of a book) won't deliver and if I order the paperbacks from Amazon, they will take weeks to get here and I won't be here then.

I know, I thought, I'll just order them and get them sent to Starfish's hotel. Then we can read them together when we're both home in a little over a week.

Which brings this whole sorry tale around in a big circle. I, too, am half (well, a quarter, really) a world away from home, travelling in the opposite direction to Starfish. In transit and in hotels and who-knows-what time zones, co-ordinating a goodnight kiss has been reduced to sending an SMS with a cute smiley in it, at least for about he next ten days so that, if we've cocked up again, it becomes a good morning kiss. Then again, for two or three days, when we are exactly 12 hours apart, a goodnight kiss for one will be a good morning kiss for the other. Quick someone: invent teleporting! I want to hug my wife :) . Oh, wait, right now, she's travelling forward in space but back in time. No wonder she looks younger every day.

Back to the delivery of Thorne's books: or not. Due to sleep deprivation and the fact that my head is full of something really, really complicated, I can't remember which hotel she will be staying in and she's on a plane and if I send it to the wrong hotel (which is the right hotel for where the previously ordered packages are but the wrong hotel for where she is staying) it might not be there when she goes to pick up the gift I sent her. And if you think that's confusing, you should try living in this fluid world where time seems to both elongate and evaporate, to bend out of shape and disappear like it was never there, where whole days disappear - or sometimes appear depending on the direction of flight.

So now I have to try to find out how to get copies of Thorne's books without clicking on the links I found (you should - and get a box of tissues delivered at the same time) and simply getting them delivered.

What a twit I am.

Update: I have found the first book.

It is, indeed, in American and it's really, really hard to read in some places because the language and the spelling are at odds.

Changing the spelling grates and often necessitates a double-take - how many different uses are there for "check?" Thank God even the Canadians - bulldozed by American in so many ways - know that a payment instruction to a bank is a "cheque."

Worse, Americans like hyperbole so they use words like "violate" when they mean "breach." Americans can't spell "colleagues" so they call them "coworkers" instead. Apart from changing the spelling, a change in the actual words used buggers up the flow.

But they missed one: someone left the word "arse" in. Thanks for that small nod to originality. But, even allowing for the linguistically imposed reduction in reading pleasure, it's still roll-around-on-the-floor-cryingly funny.

Maybe the publishers could do an original language e-book version "Now in the original Australian" on a big pretend sticker on the virtual front instead of "Now a major motion picture." Dammit: I should have patented that idea under the USA's ridiculous software patent scheme. Too late: it's in the public domain now. Hopefully publishers will see that it's a good idea they can have free and we'll see e.g. Terry Pratchett's books in proper English, too.

And why do I have only the first book? The second one hasn't reached here yet. The largest bookshop in town - the big Japanese one which is actually a wonderful shop even though it's section signs have mistakes in them (see photo) - had no record of it. So they looked it up on Amazon.Com which, if my experience in a favourite local record (er, CD) shop is anything to go by is standard operating procedure. It seems that shops treat Amazon.Com as a resource, a global (well, kind of) catalogue.

Yes, it exists, no they (the shop, not Amazon.com) don't have it, they will ask their supplier.

Next day: supplier says it exists and they can get it but it will be a special order. 25% more than its RRP in the USA and three weeks delivery.

I leave in one week.

Good job Amazon deliver to the house in France.

Now all we have to do is co-ordinate our presence with that of a delivery.

Can the ducks on the pond sign for parcels?

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