Meaghan O’Connell | Longreads | July 2017 | 12 minutes (3,000 words)
The other week, a hardcover copy of Sally Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations With Friends, was jammed through our front door mail slot as I was sitting down to dinner with my family. The book hit the floor with a dramatic plop and my 3-year-old son went sprinting over to grab it. It felt like it was Christmas and Santa had just unceremoniously dropped our bounty into the ashes of the fireplace.
“WHAT IS THIS? WHO’S IS THIS FOR?” he shouted at me in his cheerfully desperate way. My son is a book publicist’s dream.
“I think it’s a book,” I said.
“Is it a Mommy Book?!” he demanded, meaning is it a book that I, his mother, will read.
“Yep, it’s a Mommy Book.”
“Open it, Mommy! What’s your new book about?” The pitch of his voice is so high and so sincere and so loud, you either have to meet him where he is or beg him to shut up, which feels bad, to tamp down on a young child’s enthusiasm.
“Hold on,” I said and tore open the manila envelope full of anticipation, but my spirits sagged a little when I saw that it was yellow, perfect, and the very book I’d finished the day before. This copy was the published, official one — hardcover, blurbed; complete. I held it up to show my husband Dustin, pointing to the cover with a confused, sarcastic look on my face. “I just emailed their publicist yesterday about how much I loved it?” I said.
Dustin just shrugged. He works in publishing himself, book marketing specifically. “I guarantee you they have no idea who they’ve sent which copies of what book to,” he said, which I knew was a reasonable explanation but did not diminish the affronted feelings I had, my eyes scanning over the jacket copy, landing on the author bio.
“Sally Rooney was born in the west of Ireland in 1991.” I sighed loudly, only sort of joking, and pulled out the press release, a printed-out letter from the publisher, folded and tucked into the first pages of the book.
My heart fluttered as I read all the praise.
“BY the age of twenty-five, Sally Rooney was a well-established figure on the Irish literary scene.” I read aloud to Dustin, with a grandiosity that would have been mocking had I not already been won over by the book. “IN a heated, multi-house auction at the London Book Fair, rights to Conversations With Friends would be sold in ELEVEN countries, emphasis mine…and —“
“Why do they add that?” Dustin asked, cutting in just as my movie trailer voiceover impression was really kicking into high gear. “As if anyone actually cares about that stuff.”
“Ha!” I shout-laughed. “I care!” My ruefulness was so much so it broke into merriment. “They put it in for jealous bitches like me.”
“Okay, but normal people,” he said, trailing off, stabbing his spaghetti with a fork.
“Fair,” I said. Normal people are hard to argue with, especially 11 countries’ worth.
My hand twitched with the urge to text a photo of the press release to one of the handful of female peers who said they were too jealous to read a 25-year-old’s celebrated novel. Someone who GOT ME. I loved the book deeply. I’d been bowled over, thinking about it nonstop. But that was in galley form, when the book was less real, more of my own secret mind meld with the author. My own nostalgia trip. This hardcover, and its peripheral marketing stuff, the buzz — well, it was hard not to be affected. Read more…