Thursday, October 10, 2002
Dear Neil,

In this week's (Oct.11) issue of Entertainment Weekly, author Zadie Smith expresses extreme displeasure at the possibility of becoming a celebrity author, i.e. known for her appearance and personality as much her writing. Obviously, you have experience with this phenomenon. Has being the focus of a cult of personality ever bothered you? Has it been a beneficial to your career? Please don't get all modest now; I am genuinely curious. Thanks for your time.

Benai in Boston

Well, I've been working for about a decade not to be that. I've said no to "People" magazine about half a dozen times, and "no" to the David Letterman show twice. I've said no to at least a couple of documentary films about me, of the "they'll just follow you around for a month or so, you'll hardly notice they're there" variety. I'll do TV if it's about the book in question, or about the work, but that's a different thing. It's not about appearance or personality as much as it's about the writing. It's definitely not about being a celebrity.

The articles that are out there are about the work, not about "this tangle-haired Englishman with hazel-green eyes has been taken unawares by success..." or whatever, which are the kinds of silly articles that the likes of Zadie Smith have to put up with.

Beyond that, well, most people who read my books or comics do it because they've heard good things about the books or comics. It's not because of what I look like or my personality. That's not modesty. Even on a huge book signing tour I'll meet less than 1% of the readers of a book. So I'm with Zadie on this one.

You mentioned in your journal about "only washing up when there were no more cups for tea" and that made me think of Hitmouse from the Uncle books.
I read the first two as a child and have been re-reading them all my life when I needed something light and funny. I was astounded when I recently found out that there were originally 6 books published! 4 now out of print and any copies going for wild, out-of-my-reach prices.
I have seen you mention them many times and wondered if, as someone who knows more about the publishing biz than we poor outsiders, you knew of anything that could be done to get the other 4 books published again, or even released to E-books. I want to read them!
Thank you.

Sure. The first time I mentioned the UNCLE books on this journal, you couldn't get any of them. We're 1/3 better off than we were then.

Write to the people who bought the first two back in print, and tell them you'd buy the rest of the books.