Saturday, March 11, 2006

Rooney’s Royalties

It is now official. The World is mad.

At least that part of the World which many of us hold closest to our hearts, i.e. the publishing world, has given the ultimate sign that it is stark raving bonkers. I expect the men in white coats to arrive at any time now, waving documents testifying to the existence of total insanity. Those affected will be bundled off to the Institute for the Treatment of Insane Publishers and normality will return to the printed world. Once more we will be able to roam around bookshops, safe in the knowledge that the only offerings on display are erudite, well-written pieces of literature. No more will we have to suffer the chance of being offered an over-priced, under-written piece of gaudily illustrated, verbal diarrhoea masquerading as a book. No more we will have to attempt to improve such excuses for literature by spilling the contents of a coffee cup over them and then, if that fails, administer the coups de grace and place them in the re-cycling bin.

However, until the halcyon day of literary classics returns, we will have to suffer the parading of five volumes of Wayne Rooney’s autobiography, for which he is being paid £5 million, no less.

Who is Wayne Rooney? Take full marks and go straight to the top of the class. You are clearly my type of person. Excuse me if I enlighten you no further than to say that he is a footballer. That is really all you need to know in order to understand the depth of despair I have reached upon hearing of this latest piece of publishing histrionics. Not that it is lonely at these depths; I seem to be accompanied by scores of contemporary writers, many of whom are pulling their hair out, a few are in paroxysms of laughter whilst the reminder walk round in circles muttering to themselves, at the same time as carefully avoiding those rocking back and forwards on the floor. Beneath our feet, the earth is a constant quiver as the like of such great men as Wordsworth, Kipling, Joyce and Milton incessantly turn in their graves.

Surely it has to be a joke? Somebody please tell me that this Labour Government has finally tried to do something serious and moved All Fools Day to March.

£5 million for a five-volume Wayne Rooney autobiography? It isn’t even going to be an autobiography of course. I rather suspect that a ghost-writer will be trying to make sense of a few chats over a beer or two before writing whatever he thinks is appropriate. Someone on sabbatical from the tabloid press would probably be best for the job; after all, confabulation is what is really going to count here, is it not?

One hilarious article on this subject appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. I quote the reporter Neil Tweedle: ‘So look forward to Chapter one, beginning: “My name is Wayne and I like football and chips. And football. And chips. And beans sometimes”.

The same reporter enquires as to the reading habits of Rooney: “Obviously, I’ve read a few of the Harry Potter books”. Oh, that’s reassuring then; perhaps he will have something to say. However, the final word in the report went to Rooney’s wife. When asked (in respect to great literary material) what was on her bedside table, the answer was “The phone”.

No, I am not envious of the £5 million. I know which literary pond I swim in. My dreams are confined to sums with two to three noughts, not six. However, I do lament the perilous state of the publishing world. What hope for the serious writer when such vast sums of money are being thrown after tomorrow’s pulp?

It is all too much. I’m off to caress a few leather bindings in my library in an attempt to soothe my troubled mind.

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