Happy New Year, folks. I hope 2009 is everything you – yes, YOU – want it to be.
As for myself, a year half as good as 2008 would be a very good year indeed. The main reason for that, of course, was the arrival of the Princess Lilyput (right, in full-on Eskimo mode), who put this writing malarkey, and the whole business of living, into perspective. Cyril Connolly once said that the pram in the hall is the enemy of creativity, although the flip side of that equation is that creativity is the enemy of the pram in the hall. And I might be a sap, but I like that there’s a pram in my hall.
Last year was a terrific year, no doubt. As most of you already know, our humble tome THE BIG O was published in the States, which was the realisation of a life-long dream. It took a hell of a lot of hard work to get to that point, and it was hugely gratifying to see it pay off, even if it then sank like a book-shaped stone. But there’s no shame in that. There’s a lot of books published every year, and very few of them manage to top the New York Times’ best-seller list. THE BIG O gave us a fun ride on the rollercoaster, and I met some brilliant people as a result. And while I could sit here and grouse about the bewildering variety of circumstances that conspired to hole THE BIG O below the waterline, the fact remains that I’d be grousing about a book of mine that went out into the big, bad world and was taken seriously by a large number of people whose opinions and work I’ve respected for some time now. Back when I was a kid with vague ambitions to be a writer, I was totally ignorant of the issues that actually matter to the industry. All I wanted was the respect of my peers. So that, too, was hugely gratifying.
Looking forward to 2009, I have a follow-up to THE BIG O already in the can, which may or may not see the light of day some time this year. I’m also working on a book of crime fiction essays written by Irish crime writers, which is in prospect a terrific read, and something I’m hoping will reach a shelf near you late in 2009. And, naturally, I’m tap-tap-tapping away on a new book, which I’m hoping to get finished at some stage this year.
All of that, though, will take place, or not, against the backdrop of potentially the worst recession for generations, which means that my real work – i.e., paying work – will take precedence over writing, blogging and generalised faffing about. And everything this year, given the ridiculous amount of work I put into generalised faffing about last year, will take a back seat to my one and only New Year’s Resolution, which is to spend more time with Lily and Aileen.
For the first time in many years I did no work at all over the Christmas period. And what I realised was that, as much as I love to read and write, and the two are inseparable, I don’t need them in the same way, or as fundamentally, as I need my little girl. The world of books is a seductive one, and it’s one of my deepest hopes that Lily grows up to love books and appreciate their wonder, but I have no intention of sacrificing the most valuable years of our lives to closeting myself away at a desk while she starts to crawl, and walk, and says her first words, downstairs.
The writing and publishing of books can, has, and possibly will make me happy. But what I realised over the holidays is that I’m already happy, and I’m happy because of the pram in the hall, and happy in a place where even books don’t reach.
I’m sure every writer reading this will be thinking I’m a sap, that the hard facts are that we’ll all need to work twice as hard this year than we did last year, because the economy is screwed and fewer and fewer writers are going to make it for the foreseeable future. But the truth is that I am a sap, and that I don’t care: 2009 is the Year of Lily. Peace, out.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.