A few days ago I finished David Karp's One - a novel about the role of an individual in a totalitarian society. It seemed to be heavily influenced by Nineteen Eighty-Four, but whether the author had read Orwell's book (which was published five years earlier) or not, I didn't feel that it diminished the integrity of Karp's vision. Why was this novel out of print?
I discovered that David Karp had written six novels, but in his mid-40s, switched to writing for television. Why did Karp abandon books? Also, why was it so hard to find any information about David Karp on the internet? The logical explanation was that One was an accomplished, but derivative first novel, which was never equalled by its successors. I decided to put my theory to the test and read another Karp novel. Once again, Camilla's Bookshop in Eastbourne came up trumps:
I am only a third of the way into Leave Me Alone, but so far it is excellent. Set in the world of publishing, this novel reminds me strongly of Richard Yates. Like Yates, David Karp has a gift for depicting the plight of the mildly talented, burdened with artistic sensibility and the painful, growing realisation of their own mediocrity.
I'm absolutely certain that if it was reissued, Leave Me Alone would appeal to a new generation of readers. The Richard Yates revival shows that there is an appetite for this sort of fiction and the popularity of Mad Men clearly demonstrates how fascinated people are by the New York of 50 years ago.
However, I'm not sure if any publishers read this blog. When I worked for Waterstone's I tried to keep a low profile in the book trade, as I knew that my employers were quite paranoid about blogs. Indeed, when one of my colleagues wrote a mildly critical comment on her blog about G.P.Taylor, she received a visit from the Waterstone's Human Resources department.
Now that I'm a free man, perhaps I should write some inflammatory posts about people in the book trade to attract attention and, hopefully, bring authors like David Karp and John Christopher to the attention of publishers. I could mention how grumpy Terry Pratchett is (or how offensive some people find G.P.Taylor) and point out that bestselling children's author Lucy Daniels is actually two gay men in Notting Hill. I wouldn't bother saying anything about how obnoxious Jeffrey Archer is, as that would be no surprise to anyone. However, fans of Emma Blair might be shocked to learn that the good lady is a burly, Glaswegian gentleman who used to serve in the British Army. I could also mention how one publisher tried to sell the latest John Francombe novel to me on the basis that they'd 'changed the ghostwriter'.
But would any of this make any difference?
In the meantime, I shall continue to read Leave Me Alone and I have also just received a copy of Sleepwalkers - a reasonable 4/- to all opponents of Base 10:
I apologise if I seem to have a monomania (I love that word) about David Karp. I just can't believe that such an accomplished author is so unjustly neglected. If anyone can provide me with an answer, I'd be interested to hear it. In the meantime, read One!