Monday, July 24, 2017

Too Much Information

I can still remember the utter thrill I felt when I held my first book. It was a bit like when I held my first baby but without the rush of pure terror at the thought that if I got it just a little bit wrong he could just, well, die.

But first book? Pure, uncomplicated joy. Before the internet, our words were writ on water until they appeared in solid print to be our legacy. That word sounds a bit pompous but I guess most of us are happy to think that even after we're no longer here, someone could still read our books and share our thoughts and ideas.

In our post-internet world, we have a different legacy problem. There's too much information about us out there. Every word we write – every email, every tweet – is recorded somewhere. It was Oliver Cromwell who, when he was having his portrait painted, insisted it should be done with 'warts and all'. (And it was. You can view them at the National Portrait Gallery in London.) All our 'warts' – the ill-considered comment, the rushed article sloppily written, the book we felt just didn't quite work – are there on display in merciless perpetuity. It is like Omar Khayyam's Moving Finger; 'Not all Thy Piety or Wit/ Shall lure it back to cancel half a line/ Nor all Thy Tears wash out a word of it.'

I remember a popular commercial promoting gas cookers that showed a flame leaping up as a woman snapped her fingers, with the slogan,'Don't you just love being in control?' When it comes to our legacy we don't have control any more.

Don't get me wrong – I'm devoutly grateful that ebooks have given my backlist a flourishing new existence. And all my books are out there – except one, that precious first one I mentioned. I've never given permission for it to be digitised.

It wasn't such a bad book. I promise you that there are plenty of much worse books still being published. But when I wrote it I was still, so to speak, a work in progress and there was a gulf between that one and the second, where I had found my voice. I would hate a new reader to judge me on the first one, so it's not available.

Unless, of course, you go to where, for a mere £105 you can find a second-hand large print copy. Yes, well... But I'd hate you to be disappointed. Why not get The Third Sin, the latest DI Marjory Fleming novel, instead for a paltry £4.31 on Kindle?


Vicki Delany said...

I've already read The Third Sin, and enjoyed it very much.

Aline Templeton said...

Thank you, Vicki - how kind!