I'VE BEEN flogging a new book lately. I have crossed paths with Teddy White, Betty Ford, Irving Wallace, Peter Townsend, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Robert Kennedy Jr., William F. Buckley Jr., James Michener, Erma Bombeck, Barbara Tuchman and Ann Landers.
What we are all doing is going on television to try to let people know our work is in the book store. Most of us have pride and would never stoop to flackery except when it comes to pushing our own books. Then all bets are off, and we do anything the promotion department says we must do to get people into the bookore.
There is no pleasure in this sort of work, nor is there any escape. We either do it, or we're told our books will rot on the shelves. Whenever I have a few moments to think about this, I wonder if William Shakespeare, had he been living today, would be out on the circuit to promote his works. If he was, it would go something like this:
"Well, Bill, I see you have a new book consisting of your plays and sonnets. Could you give us a brief capsule of what they're all about?"
"Love, tragedy, comedy. The foibles of kings and prince fools, knaves and villains too many to mention."
"Right. What do you think of the weather in California?"
"Alas, the air is foul and tastes of grime."
"So, what's going on between you and Jackie Onassis?"
"We've hardly met, though she did ask me to write a book for her."
"How much money do you make, Bill?"
"A reasonable sum , though most of it, as you know, go for taxes."
"How do you feel about abortion?"
"I'm sorry. I'm not clear as to what that has to do with my book."
"Nothing really Bill, except that we have an abortion advocate coming on after you, and I thought you might like to take the anti-abortion point of view."
"Aren't we going to talk about my book?"
"Later, Bill, later. First I'm curious about your working habits. You've turned out quite a bit of stuff here. Rumor has it that Francis Bacon writes most of it for you."
"That's a lie. I don't know Bacon and I am sick of people asking me if he writes my material."
"Okay. As a writer how do you think you stack up against Harold Robbins and Allen Drury?"
"I have no idea."
"Has Norman Mailer ever threatened to punch you in the nose?"
"What about Gore Vidal?"
"I say. Can we talk about the book?"
"First, we have to go to a commercial. Then we have a new comedian, a singer from Las Vegas and the belly dancer of Perry Como's new Christmas show. If we have any time after that, I'd love to talk about your book."
"Could you just hold it up so the viewers could see it?"
"Sure, Bill, but can we hold off until we talk to a lady who raises pet alligators in the bathroom?"
"Are you sure you want me to sit here?"
"Of course we do. You're kind of a celebrity. Not as big as Mel Torme, the singer, or Phyllis Diller, but I'm sure you can make a contribution to the show. Do you know how to make spagetti?"
"I don't believe so."
"Leon Spinks is coming on the show and he's going to make spaghetti for us. It's a gas. Okay. Just move there on the sofa, and don't say anything until one of the floor directors gives you a nod. Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a hand for Bill Shakespeare, author of, of . . . of, well, anyhow, a lot of good plays and poems which will make a perfect gift for someone in the hospital."