Embarrassed by my writing Part Two

After Aubade was published I rejected it; when it was first republished a quarter century later I acknowledged its worth. After I wrote Waiting I defended it; now I’m wary about telling my new publisher how I really feel about it.
I can’t think of myself as an adult when Aubade was first published. Just turned 18, my editor Jack McDougal treated me as an adult, listening with apparent respect to my spoutings about Art and Literature and all the great books I was going to write. I can only think he hid any doubts because he truly believed in my talent, and he’d made it clear he wanted a second book as soon as possible. In truth I was whistling in the dark, hiding my fears and misgivings, though I knew how difficult writing had become for me. I reacted against Aubade’s raw emotionality. It told too much about me. I was a teenager, I wanted to be cool.
As I wrote Waiting I had to believe it was going to be a success, which entailed it being a “good” book. After the literary success of Aubade I wasn’t trying to attempt a commercial potboiler. (Just as well, since for years I remained remarkably naïve about the basic concerns of the popular reading public: when a Sunday Times editor told me he was assigning me a story about a miser who’d died with a lot of money in the bank because people always liked to read stories about money, it was news to me.) When I wrote Waiting, I was in the position I’d been in writing Aubade, except I lived in a room in Goldhurst Terrace, London, rather than Dufferin Avenue, Bangor, Northern Ireland: penniless, rejecting what little help anyone offered, with no options I was aware of except to become a successful writer. In Dufferin Avenue, I believed absolutely in what I was writing (or did I? some nagging memory just surfaced); in Goldhurst Terrace I used sleight of mind to ignore my doubts about the quality of what I was writing.
The respectful or enthusiastic reviews of Waiting outnumbered the bad, but secretly I took the bad to heart, because Aubade‘s ecstatic reviews were missing this time. But I stubbornly hid my doubts; if I downplayed Aubade’s qualities, Waiting might seem less disappointing. So when someone introduced me to the playwright Terence Rattigan at a party as “Kenneth Aubade Martin,” I corrected him with “Kenneth Waiting for the Sky to Fall Martin.” Either way, Rattigan barely acknowledged me.
Over the years I started to assume that Waiting’s bad reviews were valid. I circled the book for a long time before I picked it up again after 50 years. I’ll finally admit that reading it was an excruciating experience. I can’t forgive those characters for their bored indifference to the mind’s riches. Today I have young therapy clients who feel the same ennui, and I can understand and empathize with them. But I find it hard to forgive myself for writing that book that reflected the way I once felt. I’m not sure why.

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