I've just received my invitation for the launch party for the erotic anthology In Bed With... Since there are twenty of us authors, it's hardly surprising that we can only invite a certain number of friends each, but now, apparently, demand from the press and media for invitations has been much, much higher than anticipated. Since the good folk of Little, Brown's publicity department know their stuff, have run one or two launch parties in their time and so must know what the usual rate for accepting invitations is, I can only come to the staggeringly original conclusion that Sex Sells.
But of course, no one knows which of those twenty stories I wrote, except me and the desk editor, and far as I know the other authors are in much the same position; we've all written under pseudonyms, and everyone's being very careful not to give anything away. So the common currency of a launch - part celebration, part confidence boost, part media-trap - can only work collectively. I shan't be able to congratulate anyone on their story, and they won't be able to congratulate me. (Yes, these events are very like that. It must seem nauseatingly lovey to some, and it's true that one function of them is to big the book up to the book trade and the media. But that just happens to combine with a human truth that there is a time for sober and ruthless reflection on what you've created and how you've performed, but the moment of presenting your creation to the world, and the moment of standing on stage, are not the time.)
Nor will I be able to talk about my story or other people's - though I find the whole subject of writing sex fascinating - or hear what others want to say aboutall these things, if anything. And that, if you like, is more serious. Well, more frustrating, anyway. I think it's bleedin' obvious which my story is, but no doubt Ali Smith and Kathy Lette and Fay Weldon and all think that of theirs: we would, wouldn't we. So it's not just that we're done out of some nice ego-boost, it's actually that, because we can't claim our work, we're like a deaf person who has learnt to speak, but has no means of telling whether they're heard or carrying on a conversation. In a very real sense, as academics and writers say when they're trying to make something apparently metaphorical into something sort-of concrete, there's noise, but no communication.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's all being great fun, not least because I'm proud of my story (though how much force can that statement have when you, dear reader, don't know which one it is?), but it's not just on my shoulders - or rather on that strange, often wobbly, mysterious inner place where stories come from - that success or failure rests. Yes, it's nice being able to lie back and think of... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it!