Monday, August 09, 2010

The TLS and I

It’s not unusual for the mail carrier in Berkeley to get to our house just as I’ve poured my first martini into a suitably frosty glass. No, I’m not an alcoholic clandestinely quaffing at noon. The fact is it’s not uncommon for the mail to slip through the slot at 6 p.m., or thereabouts.
Last week, the TLS arrived as I took my first sip. As I always do, I checked out the last page for the column NB, a wide-ranging, wry must-read column--at least for me. Written and edited by the gifted James Campbell, NB takes a witty, dry-as-my-martini view of the literary landscape—present and past.
As I read the July 23 edition, I nearly choked on my olive, for there in the middle of NB were the words “Vince Cosgrove of Berkeley.”
I had finally merited a mention in the London Times Literary Supplement.
I say “finally” because I’d come close two years ago when I found an error in a review, and e-mailed a correction. But the letters editor was on vacation, and several weeks later I received an e-mail acknowledging the mistake. But the letters editor deemed the time lapse too long to run my letter. So it goes.
But back to my triumphant appearance in NB: for several weeks, James Campbell had been running a funny commentary on authors who review their own books, usually under cloak of pen name or anonymity. In some odd cases, the writers gave themselves bad notices (“So. Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?”)
I had an example of positive self-reviewing: on the 1964 paperback cover of “Death In the Fifth Position,” a mystery by Edgar Box, Gore Vidal offered a glowing quote: “The work that Dr. Kinsey began with statistics, Edgar Box completed with wit in the mystery novel.” As you’ve figured, Edgar Box was the name Vidal used in the 1950s when he was short of cash and dashed off three very readable whodunits featuring an amateur sleuth named Peter Cutler Sargeant ll, a public relations specialist.
I knew that James Campbell planned to use the item, but what thrilled me was getting my name in the column. As I’ve said, I admire the style of NB. And let’s face it, there was no other way I’d ever get my name in the TLS. The TLS casts its eye on serious subjects (Some topics covered in the July 23 issue: Arthur Koestler, Ballooning in Europe (1783—1820), and five unknown poems by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). Even if I wrote another book, the author of “The Hemingway Papers” and “Tin For Sale” was never going to be reviewed in the TLS.
So thank you, James Campbell. I plan to frame the column.
Bartender, another martini, if you please.


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