Friday, 6 April 2012

Red-faced with humble appreciation

As an author, the release of any new book has you rushing to read the reviews in the hope that they've been kind. As I've said before, I don't necessarily believe that reviewers' and critics' opinions are any more valid or important than anyone else's, but they do influence the buyers so you hope that they like it. Thankfully, I've not yet had a bad review. It's all been deliciously nice and ego-boosting (a bunch of them are over on the right hand side of this blog page).

However, what really matters is reader feedback - they're the people whose views count the most. And, again, I've been very lucky here because it's all been very kind. And so, with a new book on the horizon, I thought it might be nice to include a few reader reviews for the 'What people said about the last book' page. And I suddenly realised that I'd never looked to see if I had any reviews on Amazon.

They're great! There's a very clever review that mimics the internal structure of the book by a Mr William J Pope that goes:

'I'm sure you've done that thing during a rambling conversation when you wonder how you ever got to, say, the Large Hadron Collider, when you began talking about, for example, the smell of a dry cleaners. It happens when you are truly comfortable with your companions and feel so light and happy just being together that no subject is off limits and no link is so tenuous as to be considered off the conversation. You laugh at the shared silliness and creativity as you try to recall the paths you've wandered together.

Uniquely, at least in my experience, Stevyn Colgan conveys that same sense of easy, jamming fun in print. He makes you feel you are in good, bright, welcoming and very entertaining company.

But he isn't rambling. Far from it.

Instead of chapters, the book is organised into rounds, beginning at a seemingly arbitrary point and ending up right back there, in Finnegans Wake style, despite meandering and exploring the unlikeliest of back lanes and byways. Every topic is linked somehow, and always remarkably, to the next. And along the way you find yourself being enjoyably guerrilla educated, as if by a really good episode of QI. It is rather satisfying and consistent that the author is connected to the show, and the elves to his book.

As you read you occasionally become aware of other connections that could spin you off at tangents and at the end, as you meet again the opening sentence of the round, you really appreciate the author's craft in leading you in just the direction he did.

Then, when you think, a little sadly, that you have come to a natural close, there are more treats in store. Not least among which is that rarest of literary delights, a truly entertaining index. So that you are not left wondering how you ever came to this unexpected place from page 1, it cheerfully guides your recall and all the amusing digressions and serendipitous links you have enjoyed.

It's a feeling that's familiar to us all.

I'm sure you've done that thing, during a rambling conversation ... '

And I didn't pay him or anything. I don't even know him. But I thank him dearly as this kind of feedback means more to me than any amount of professional reviews. I also loved this comment by Martyn Davies:

'Colgan is obviously deeply disturbed, and I commend him for it.'

And the gloriously informative words of Mrs Jana Faris:

'Bought it for a friend, very fast delivery, book looked new, very happy with the purchase.'

With my new book soon to be launched, it's encouraging to see that, so far at least, I've apparently kept the readers happy. Long may it continue!

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