FAME is a wonderful thing; it overrides ability in so many fields of endeavour.
But nowhere more so than in the world of publishing.
There the principle is simple: names sell. Celebrity is everything. Much to the chagrin of authors who have spent years honing their craft.
Facebook “likes”, Instagram followers, Twitter retweets; these are the factors that matter. All else comes a distant second.
A post-publication floodtide of appearances on chat shows, news magazine couches and celebrity panels is a given.
An extended fifteen minutes of fame to ensure these literary creations (a very loose description) achieve the greatest return in the shortest time. Before the boomer of a wave recedes as quickly as it thundered in. Before the product is discounted to giveaway level and consigned to the remainders bin.
A supreme (right royal?) example is now hitting (or lying supine) in bookshops around the nation.
This woeful piece of tosh bears the title The Bench. Its author, the cover tells us, is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. She of the fragile temperament, inflated ego and speaker of one’s “truth.”
Vanity publishing? Surely unlikely from one so self-effacing, although one does wonder about the use of the royal title in preference to her professional actor tag of Meghan Markle.
Cashing in? Again, surely not, although she would be far from alone in this corner of the publishing world where celebrity is the foundation stone.
If this venture does add to her existing riches it will be due to its success as a hit and run raid on a gullible public, not to any literary merit.
Writing a children’s book – especially for those in the very young age bracket The Bench is clearly aiming for – is a real skill.
It has to work on several levels. Every word has to share the load, be readily understood, sit comfortably with its companions, be fun, spark a wish to hear it again, and again, and again . . .
There is a story to be told, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Preferably a happy one. Bringing a sigh of contentment, or a smile, a laugh, even a plea to read it again – now!
It should scan, rhyme, have rhythm and movement.
Think of the work and reworking, the careful crafting and deft use of words, that goes into creating a haiku; then multiply it tenfold. It is not a loose agglomeration of child-friendly words.
Nor. as with The Bench, is it a succession of poorly assembled statements, some of them semi-literate and bordering on the inane.
Celebrity books, mostly made readable by skilled ghost writers, have long been giving reading and writing an immense disservice.
The Bench only perpetuates that with this mercifully brief outpouring of clearly personal thoughts that should have remained between the two consenting adults that sparked them.
A pair who, so they assure us, abhor the limelight. Maybe a darkened room and a comfortable bench from now on.