“This book is really big!” my brother exclaims, looking at my new novel accusingly.
“It is longer then my usual,”I say. “I found writing a historical just took more words.”
We are sitting in the sunporch, overlooking the pool and garden in London. I am visiting for five days while Colin is away. “Don’t forget to bring your book,” he said yesterday, when he phoned to remind me of all the things he was sure I would forget. I am surprised and a bit concerned by this sudden interest in my literary career. When I began writing and then publishing all those years ago, he was quick to inform me he would never read anything of mine. “I don’t read fiction any more,” he said. But I suspect the real reason is he is afraid to see himself there, portrayed in some unpleasant way.
He looks over at me now, his eyes tracking to the book I had brought to read. “This is bigger then that book,” he says now, and I realize he means the size of the trade paperback, how long, how wide, not how many words.
“That’s up to the publisher,” I say. “He seems to like the bigger size.” Really, what does that matter?
He starts to read. “You must have done a lot of research!” he exclaims after a few pages.
So the more than fifteen years it took to write the book did not give that away, I mutter, and make a noise of agreement. I jump up and start setting the table.
“I never knew you were so interested in cars!” he says a few minutes later.
“I’m not. My main character is.”
“But you know all this stuff,” he goes on.
“Research.” My voice is a little louder then normal. I go into the kitchen and start pulling things out of the fridge for dinner. Slamming the fridge door does not really work but it makes me feel better.
For a while there is silence from the porch.
Then: “There’s a split infinitive at the bottom of this page,” he pipes up suddenly.
I grimace and start to chop veggies.
“Does anyone care about that these days?” he goes on, morosely.
“Obviously not my editor,” I say, and chop faster.
“Too bad,” he murmurs and goes back to reading.
I pour the wine.
The next morning he says he has read another
chapter. “It’s more interesting now that the boring automobile part is over.”
“Some people say they enjoyed that part,” I say defensively and then wish I hadn’t.
As I drive home, I tell myself he will never finish the novel. He really doesn’t read much fiction. And that’s just fine, I tell myself. It’s almost a relief.
But several weeks later, when I am preparing for another visit, a weekend this time, I get a phone call from him.
“I finished your book,” he said. “I have a few things to say about it.”
Oh God! I think things were better when he ignored my writing!