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Iphgenia Baal
Iphgenia Baal

Iphgenia Baal is a writer living and working in Bethnal Green. She was once very popular and at the start of a promising career in journalism, but she is much happier now. She has just finished her first book, 'The Hardy Tree' which is published by Trolley Books, and is considering moving to the monastery where they brew Buckfast to hand paint it onto a giant and illegible manuscript.


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The Thoughts of Strangers: Promoting 'The Hardy Tree'


If you have written a book, your next move should be to shut up. Everything that you wanted to say should be in ink on the page, rendering further explanation obsolete.

          Sadly, this is not the case. Think of the Tate and the patronising explanations making sure you realise that Picasso was not only a womaniser, but also had a bit of a thing for 90º angles. The modern Western world is an awful, personality-driven place. People don’t like Lily Allen songs, they like Lily Allen (well they don’t, but you get what I’m saying). Everyone is hungry for their tatter of Yoko Ono’s t-shirt.

          If you are sensing some belligerence in my tone, then let me counteract it (or perhaps enforce it) by admitting that I barely engage with ‘culture’ at all. I find it impossible to like a band I have read about in a magazine, embarrassing to buy clothes worn by T4 presenters, and if I read a book, I won’t have read its review (and vice versa).

          Being so anti-consumerist is all well and good as a consumer, but as a writer (which is wot I is), it doesn’t really work. You could write a book and not put it out, but then what?

          Writers can often be heard to comment on the horrors of writing – how they only write because they have to, and what a harrowing experience finishing a book is. But if this is true, the next bit is second only to moving house/divorce.

          The Hardy Tree: A story about Gang Mentality is my first properly published book. The best bit was writing it; the second-best bit was researching it; but when it was actually published, no one gave a damn. Now, I exaggerate to make a point: the book’s launch was a wild success, 150 people drinking Prosecco out of a church font and a line-up of nutters taking to the stage to laud this new thing. Songs were sung, points were made, an extract from the book was read and lots of copies were signed and sold. But the General Public, for all their faults, paid little to no attention. And how could they? It is not possible. Ideas do not permeate people’s dreams, and therefore I find myself with the humbling task of having to tell people about what I’ve written, and by now I must’ve come up with at least 450 different versions of what The Hardy Tree is about (just to make the job a little less boring for myself). Sometimes I make it sound wonderful, sometimes I don’t.

          “It’s about a tree.”

          “Oh right.”

 

Promoting yourself is embarrassing. I wouldn’t do it for love nor money. Doubtless, there are a plethora of reasons to get up in front of people and scream, and there are plenty of perks that come with the job, but the only real excuse for it is the propagation of ideas: The Hardy Tree is a book with its roots firmly in the past, but its head nowhere in particular. It has already found many happy homes on the bookshelves of likeminded folks, but as its author, my main struggle is to try and get those who haven’t considered the ideas contained within it to pick the book up and see. I love the idea of something that one person makes having a life of its own; of the thoughts and reactions not voiced by the press or reviewers or friends, but of strangers; thoughts that can never be catalogued; and the ensuing effect, however tiny, the book might have on all the things that somebody else might do next.


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