I guess it's probably one of those old adages like "prise the gun from my cold, dead fingers" which endlessly migrates from speaker to speaker, but there's nevertheless a fair amount of truth in it.
As time goes by, you begin to learn the rules, however idealistic you were going in: always site the book-table near the exit (so that no-one can escape bookless without running the gauntlet of your reproachful gaze); never stint on food and drink (especially the latter-- you want to induce a false sense of euphoria in your guests); don't let the speeches go on too long; and (if possible) include a musician or a juggler or something novel to liven things up; only invite people who are likely to buy the book (that rules out the very rich and the very poor: too canny and too needy respectively).
It's with a certain amount of horror that I realise that the recent Classic Poets booklaunch was actually my thirteenth -- hence the melodramatic title of this post (I guess I was thinking of that old Dr Seuss film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T; or else maybe The Nine Gates of the Land of Shadow, that Satanic tract in the Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate, which damns everyone who looks at it to eternal perdition ...)
So here they are, in reverse order of occurrence:
- 2006 (20 July) -- Peter Simpson & Elizabeth Caffin launch Classic New Zealand Poets in Performance, edited by Jack Ross & Jan Kemp (Auckland: AUP), in the Hobson Room, Jubilee Hall, Parnell. MC: Jack Ross. Readers: Riemke Ensing, Anne Kennedy, Alistair Paterson, Jack Ross, C K Stead, Richard von Sturmer & Sonja Yelich.
- 2006 (15 June) -- Gabriel White, Scott Hamilton & Brett Cross launch The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis, by Jack Ross, & Bill Direen’s Song of the Brakeman (Auckland: Titus Books), at the University of Auckland English Department Common Room.MC: Michele Leggott. Readers: Jack Ross & Olwyn Stewart.
- 2005 (16 November) -- Mary Paul & Grant Duncan launch Where Will Massey Take You? Life Writing 2, edited by Jack Ross (Massey University: School of Social & Cultural Studies) in the Common Room, Atrium Building, Massey @ Albany.
- 2005 (21 May) -- Mike Johnson & Brett Cross launch Trouble in Mind , by Jack Ross, Olwyn Stewart’s Curriculum Vitae , & Bill Direen’s Coma (Auckland: Titus Books), at Shanghai Lil’s, corner of Anzac Rd & Customs St.
- 2004 (24 October) -- Roger Horrocks & Raewyn Alexander launch Monkey Miss Her Now, by Jack Ross (Auckland: Danger Publishing), at the George Fraser Gallery, University of Auckland.
- 2004 (19 September) -- George Wood, the Mayor of the North Shore, & Chris Cole Catley launch Golden Weather: North Shore Writers Past & Present, edited by Graeme Lay & Jack Ross (Auckland: Cape Catley), at the Takapuna Public Library.
- 2004 (12 September) -- Jan Kemp & Jack Ross launch the Aotearoa / New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive (Auckland University Library: Special Collections), at the Titirangi Pioneer Hall, Auckland. MC: Jack Ross. Readers: C K Stead, Janet Charman, Stu Bagby, Riemke Ensing, Mike Johnson, Paula Green, Bob Orr , & Sonja Yelich.
- 2003 (4 June) -- Tina Shaw & A/Prof Mike O’Brien launch [your name here]: Life Writing, edited by Jack Ross (Massey University: School of Social & Cultural Studies) in the Common Room, Atrium Building, Massey @ Albany.
- 2002 (10 November) -- Alistair Paterson launches Chantal's Book, by Jack Ross (Wellington: HeadworX) at the Birdcage Tavern, 133 Franklin Rd, Ponsonby.
- 2000 (14 December) -- Alan Brunton launches Nights with Giordano Bruno, by Jack Ross, & Sally Rodwell’s Gonne Strange Charity (Wellington: Bumper Books), at The Space, 146 Riddiford Street, Newtown, Wellington.
- 2000 (10 December) -- Professor D. I. B. Smith launches Nights with Giordano Bruno, by Jack Ross (Wellington: Bumper Books), at 6 Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay.
- 2000 (1 October) -- Jack Ross & Gabriel White launch A Town Like Parataxis, text by Jack Ross, photos by Gabriel White (Auckland: Perdrix Press) at 23 Maxwell Ave, Westmere.
- 1998 (25 September) -- Theresia Marshall launches City of Strange Brunettes, by Jack Ross, & Lee Dowrick’s That was Then ((Auckland: Pohutukawa Press), at the Takapuna Public Library.
I guess my main impression, looking at this line-up, is to marvel at the number of people who've helped me and my collaborators out over the years. I mean, I have tried to do my bit to reciprocate, but it doesn't make nearly such an impressive list:
- 2005 (5 December) -- Launched Richard von Sturmer’s Suchness: Zen Poetry and Prose (Wellington: HeadworX), with music by Don McGlashan, at the St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby.
- 2005 (20 October) -- MC, with Ahmed Esau, introducing Riemke Ensing, Deborah Manning, and Bill Manhire, at the launch of Ahmed Zaoui’s Migrant Birds: 24 Contemplations (Nelson: Craig Potton Books), in the Crypt of St. Benedict’s Church, Newton.
- 2005 (17 October) -- Launched Bill Direen’s New Sea Land and Stephen Oliver’s Either Side The Horizon , with Alistair Paterson, launching Olivia Macassey’s Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Auckland: Titus Books) at Rakino’s, High Street, Auckland.
- 2004 (17 July) -- Launch, with Jan Kemp, Olivia Macassey, and Richard von Sturmer, of nzepc feature: 12 Taonga from the Aotearoa / New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive, at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Shortland St, Auckland.
- 2000 (21 July) -- Organised the book-launch of Leicester Kyle’s A Safe House for a Man (Auckland: Polygraphia Press) at the Takapuna Public Library.
I suppose they can be quite fun sometimes -- meeting your pals, scarfing bread & cheese, making sure you're next to the drinks table when the speeches begin ... next time you go to one, though, do remember that you are expected at least to consider buying the book. Otherwise it's a bit like spending all afternoon tasting fine vintages at the vineyard and then rolling off without having purchased a single bottle -- it can be done, but it is a little gauche.
Really, though, I just want to put on record my thanks to all of you excellent people who have taken the trouble to come along on these many, many occasions. I guess your true reward will have to be postponed till you reach the next world, because it's unlikely to come in this one. I hope you take some satisfaction in knowing that you truly are the salt of the earth ...