Paid, even

As lines from the poem in the previous post imply, young authors have been known since time immemorial (or roundabouts), to suffer at the hands of magazine editors. Mental hospital wardens (those wily tittle-tattles) have told countless tales of literary lunacy; of velvet-jacketed artists wandering mournfully through asylum corridors, lost in endless murmurs about deadlines and word-limits. One poor man is said to have fallen into a deep faint whenever his editor’s name was mentioned, whilst many others are forced into soul-destroying poverty by their boss’s failure to supply the paycheck on time. The greatest danger – as Holubk hints – is the seemingly friendly editor: the one who plays the gentle father role to young artists; who offers comfort early on in their careers, only to cut the rope soon after – or else squeeze whatever talent they had into a jug of brainless tasks.

I would make a poor anaconda: I do not squeeze well. At best, I nudge talent out of people.  No, as I have already established, I have never been a rampaging carnivore. If I have a roar, it is a quiet one; a roar which dribbles out into words (where it is dispersed, usually, in the manner of a moderate gentleman). If I am any animal, I would say that I am a fly. A fly caught  – like most of us are – in the eternal web of grievous misunderstandings.

There is no time to deal with all of these misunderstandings. Perhaps I may fit them into a book one day (fourteen volumes should just about cover it). For today, however, let us land our metaphorical helicopters on just one of these editor-related issues.

Money, dosh, cash, clink, mazuma: call it what you will (I call it ‘tickles’), there’s no denying the problems it causes. As you may know, a while back a reviewer accused me, within an article published in my journal, of not paying my contributors (or to be more exact: of not paying him). This caused not a little fuss, with at least one letter of complaint arriving on my doormat. Luckily, like a fire in a fog, things soon died down. I explained (in private, for I wrongly supposed the public didn’t need to know) that there had been some confusion at the bank and that normal service would be resumed forthwith. Into the envelope I slipped a lollipop (lime flavour) and a photocopy of a poem by Brszny Derydaripov – not as a bribe, you understand, but as a gesture of goodwill.

Clearly I should have made a much greater attempt to inform the wider community that I was not, in fact, a stingy slave-driver. For, as it transpires, the tag has stuck to me like a stream of bindweed. Witness, for instance, the reaction that a reader recently took to this line in Mylena Dyman’s review of the aforementioned Fritz Kakfa. Here is a line from Dyman’s text, expressing the writer’s joy at being paid by a Czech newspaper to do what was for her enjoyable work:

“Then, for three solid months, I was happily employed – paid, even – to follow every twist and turn of the incredible story of Fritz Kakfa”

Simple enough. Fancy my surprise, therefore, when I found out that someone had chosen read this sentence as a direct reference to the supposedly ‘un-paid’ employment offered by yours truly (of which the writing of this review was thought to be part). To put it another way, they saw this statement, utterly unrelated to financial issues within my circle of contributors, as a frank jibe against my person.

There are all sorts of ways in which I could reply to this accusation. After careful thought (much of it done in the bath) I have opted for this one.

Careless reader, I have met many a wiser mooncalf than thee.

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