Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 14 April 2012

Your problems solved

Q. A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, the Idler Academy arranged that there would be a ‘signing’ for my book. The Idler emailed the thousand idlers on their list and the headmaster’s mother came up from Oxford to help control the crowds. Two people turned up, both of whom were old friends. Mary, what do you advise?
—D.B., London W2

A. Do not take the apparent mass snubbing as significant. Since your book (‘Among Booksellers, Tales Told in Letters to Howard Hodgkin’, by David Batterham) contains the modest musings of a gentleman and scholar as he goes about his business in the world of rare books, it is likely that most potential purchasers would also be unpushy types and disinclined to consider the cornering of its author on a Sunday morning. Instead they would quietly buy the book from Amazon (at £8.95).

You balked at the likely cost of a traditional book launch party at the Idler’s Notting Hill Academy because the basic outlay of £400 could have soared to £1,000, depending on how much your guests drank. You should reconsider. Such a party would be a so-called loss leader, generating goodwill and gaiety and there is nothing to beat ‘Presenteeism amongst peers’ as a tool for general advancement.

Q. My brothers and I all love our only sister who is going out with someone we are not sure we do love. When friends ask what this boyfriend is like we don’t like to be disloyal and mention our reservations but neither do we want people to think we have lost our judgment or are insincere.

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