Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Society for Unread Authors

If you’re still reading this blog, all I can say is - thanks, as you seem to be part of a dwindling band. There was a flurry of interest at the start but those part-timers have long since departed, leaving the diehards behind, like some obscure religious sect who thought the world was going to end in 1975 but carry on believing out of loyalty and cussedness.

At the moment I’m feeling very … unread. It’s a bit like that episode of the Vicar of Dibley in which the confirmed bachelor and stalwart of the parish council comes out as gay on the local Dibley radio station, and is touched when his friends treat him exactly the same – except that, unbeknown to him, no one was listening. I could probably confess to murder on this blog and get away with it, because no one would be reading. Some people of my acquaintance have even complained that they were unable to access this blog because their computers froze or asked them for passwords. A likely story, told by the sort of people who used to accuse the dog of eating their homework.

In fact, I’m thinking of starting up a charity called the Society for Unread Authors. It would provide support and counselling to all those authors traumatised by not being able to acquire a readership. At this very moment there are thousands of authors wandering lost and confused around our cities, in search of readers. They are hunched in shop doorways, whispering forlornly at passers-by: ‘Spare the price … of a paperback?’

I gave most of the complimentary copies of my last book to friends and colleagues and I’m pretty sure most of them remained unread. It’s not great when you can’t even give your books away, is it? And don’t get me started on any of my other books. If you’ve read one of those, I probably know you. My dad once told me that writing a book is like dropping a stone down a very deep well. There might be a bit of rattling down the sides and a few years later you hear a tiny ‘plop’ as it hits the water – if you’re lucky.

Who is this mythical beast called a reader, where is s/he and how do you get hold of him or her? It’s lonely here with only the winking cursor for company. Maybe there aren’t any readers. Maybe everyone is writing blogs and just lies about things they have read, so we’re all just speaking into the air.

Please give generously to the Society for Unread Authors – by becoming a reader today.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘Every time I wash up a batch of crockery I marvel at the unimaginativeness of human beings who can travel under the sea and fly through the clouds, and yet have not known how to eliminate this sordid time-wasting drudgery from their daily lives.’ – George Orwell


  1. I regularly read your posts, Joe and have been tempted to comment several times, however, I find myself scared of sounding juvenile and a bit thick (a bit like now) and so, I refrain.

  2. Feel compelled to let you know that I read and enjoy your work, including this blog. Chin up!

  3. I know how you feel about being unread. My own blog "The Dreaming Arm" ( suffers from the same malaise, so could benefit immensely from your charity! I have a small band of regulars (mostly fellow bloggers and Facebook friends), but the enthusisam to write posts does tend to wane when the
    comments don't come flooding in.

    I came across your blog after reading your piece in the Guardian about Blythe's Akenfield, which I admit to never having heard of, but it sounds lie a fascinating piece of cultural and social history which I intend to read. I'll also be a regular reader of your blog - it's original, thought-provoking stuff - keep up the good work!

  4. George was wrong. Washing up is good for the soul!

  5. I read both your Akenfield article and the latest about Glossop. Excellent stuff which is well researched. I do not usually have time to read blogs as there are such things as books to read and a life to lead and a garden to weed.
    However I will stick with this blog which,hopefully,will qualify me for a free copy of the forthcoming book.

  6. It's much like teaching all of this. You prepare the finest intranet resources on Brecht, you lecture your little heart out, you conduct lunchtime one-to-ones with the struggling and they still write tosh like this: 'Brecht made strange things even stranger'; 'All Brecht's plays are didactic because of his wife, Helene Eagle.'Was anybody listening?

  7. Hate to think of you languishing unread. Have pimped your stuff on my also slightly unread blog

    Walking Home to 50

  8. Another reader here! I'm quite a new comer, but I do enjoy reading your blog.

  9. having long been an avid reader of your new statesman & guardian articles - indeed i have often referred my own 'imaginary' reader straight to you - but embarrassed at seeming something of a gushing fan, i felt emboldened by this flurry of support to add my own words of encouragement. in fact i could actually stop writing altogether and just stick a permanent link to your pieces and be content that my work was done!! the last 2 articles that i have read, 'aimless pleasures' and 'remains of the day' sum up prefectly and succinctly my whole raison d'etre....

    humbly yours, a fellow enthusiast & archaeologist of the mundane and everyday, epnxx

  10. And once more someone has read this post (with great pleasure). I have even ordered some of your books on Amazon today, so at least in the Netherlands you are not eligible to become member of the Society of Unread Authors.

  11. Why at 51, mother of two kids in college, did I decide to go back to school? Why did "Interdisciplinarity" sound like the perfect jump all in subject? (I did imagine I had this down, what is single motherhood if not interdisciplinarity in practice?) Who is this man who wrote this torturous book? Now, late at night, facing down a deadline for a paper on your book, I have gratefully consumed cold coffee from your long vacated virtual book launch, feasted on your boring, bored blogs about being board, and thumbed through several books from the Society of Unread Authors. I am refreshed. I am also humbled. It is clear that in fact you did not write "Interdisciplinarity" just to make me question the wisdom of returning to graduate school. You wrote it to frustrate my mundane life here in my corner of Maine.

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