Like Edwina, Jeffrey and Ulrika, I have a new book out. "Are you on tour, then?" a non-literary friend asked the other day, imagining a month-long roadshow, with minders, groupies, paparazzi and flash hotels. I mentioned a gig in Beverley and an interview with the Lancashire Evening News. He didn't look very impressed.
In fact, the chief outcome of taking your book about the place seems to be re-encountering long-lost friends and relations. In the past few weeks, I've run into three members of a family I met on holiday 30 years ago; a girl with whom I shared a sleeping-bag at 14; my father's broker; and several women whose babies were delivered by my mother. Even the man from the Yorkshire Post, Frederick Manby, is the son of one of my mother's best friends. When he last interviewed me, Fred was working as the paper's motoring correspondent and began his piece: "Some reviewers have said this is the best book they've read this year. I can go one better - it's the only book I've read this year."
A writer's ideal audience, said Auden, consists of the intelligent who appreciate your talent, the rich who want to be your patron, and the beautiful who want to go to bed with you. The audience you get is the equivalent of www.friendsreunited. Still, it's very gratifying to renew old acquaintances, especially when, from duty or sentiment, these acquaintances buy your new book. And if they confess, as you inscribe it, that they're "not really a books person" and haven't read a word you've previously written, at least that's honest.
Nick Hornby tells the story of the friend of a friend who claimed to be Fever Pitch's biggest fan and was desperate to discuss it with him. With some misgivings, Nick agreed to meet him in a pub. "Brilliant book," the fan said. "Just loved it. By the way, do you support any particular team?" The book of mine people seem to know best is a memoir of my father. Any day now someone will approach me and say: "Just loved the book, Blake - by the way, how is your dad?"
The new book is about my mother. If writing a book about one parent is weird, writing about two is certifiable. Perhaps it's an act of penance: when I was young, I thought my parents were boring (most children do); now I want to build memorials to them. What I find odd is the accusation that in telling their story, and quoting their wartime letters, I'm "exposing" them. It's all right to write about people who lead public lives, runs the argument, but the unfamous, such as my parents (who were GPs), mustn't have their privacy breached, even posthumously. One reviewer questioned whether I loved my mother: surely, if I had, I'd not have written a book about her? So to let her pass into oblivion, without a word, would have been a demonstration of true love, then?
When I published the book about my father, people wanted to know what my mother thought. This time I keep getting asked, "What does your sister think?" The Daily Mail has even offered her the chance to tell her side of the story. The general assumption is that she must be angry and upset - that any family memoir is bound to offend the rest of the family. Perhaps my sister is upset but doesn't realise it. Or perhaps, like me, she has a screw loose, and sees nothing offensive in a book describing the wartime experiences of two ordinary, "real-life" people who would become our parents. I don't know. Maybe she'll tell me in the Mail.
Some authors claim not to read their reviews. I envy such strength of character, but for myself pore over every cutting, masochistically seeking out the slightest slight.
It's part of the disgusting megalomania of publication time - along with noticing which friends fail to show at your party, and which relations haven't acknowledged receipt of the book you sent, and which literary editors think your work beneath notice. As if the world didn't have better things to do. But for a while you are literally all over the place, transported into a state of relentless Me-ism which even the award of a Nobel would do nothing to appease. Horrible stuff. Five years' solitary confinement working on the next book is the least you deserve.
Worst of all about the reviews is that there's no chance of a re-mark, except from posterity. My daughter was luckier with her English A-level, when, last month, the module for which she'd been given an E grade came back from the OCR board with 28 marks added, giving her an A overall. Factor number four was cited: "the examiner omitting a question, or part question, or deviating from the agreed standardisation". My daughter felt pleased (she thought she'd fucked up and that the E grade must be accurate), and her school and pushy parents felt vindicated. So we won't be suing.
As I see it, the real story of the A-level scandal isn't to do with government pressure, or bias for and against independent schools. It's that there aren't the examiners to cope. I suspect the crudeness of some of this year's marking - the award of Us to high-rank students - was a piece of whistle-blowing: an attempt, by insiders, to expose the flaws in the system. They were drowning, so they waved. It seems to have worked.
Blake Morrison's Things My Mother Never Told Me is published by Chatto & Windus (£16.99)