White Line Fever column by Steve Mascord


BY the time you read this, I’ll be on my way back to England to do it all again.
For the last month I’ve been in Australia promoting my new book, Touchstones, which will be foisted upon you in the UK in August by the same people who foisted upon you this magazine, Forty20.

When I say promoting, I mean: four appearances on the ABC, four appearances on Triple M, almost a full hour on national breakfast radio, national breakfast TV, The Sunday Footy Show, extracts in the Sydney Morning Herald and on Fox Sports and Rolling Stone Australia’s websites.
No matter what you read about dwindling crowds and ratings, rugby league is still big enough in Australia to afford me these opportunities.
I’ve also done plenty of DIY – like visiting stores and just announcing this on social media, meaning the odd person has come down to have a book signed. I’ve had launches in Wollongong, Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle that I’ve organised and promoted completely on my own.
For the first question of the first interview, with Wendy Harmer on ABC Sydney, I froze. I’d been asked an open-ended question about being adopted and about being lied to most of my life.
I was like a deer in the headlights. Where to start?
Since then, things have gotten easier. I’ve given myself routines to get me out of tight places when the subject comes up …. Like recounting how I froze the first time I was asked.
And the previous month has been the rarest of experiences – something that has stimulated me emotionally and intellectually in almost equal measure.
The first book I sold at a launch was to John Dorahy, my childhood hero. The second was to Rod Wishart. That night at the Steelers Club guests included two of my high school teachers who told me how proud they were.
At each of the Sydney and Brisbane launches, I had a sister present to officially launch the book. One, I grew up with; one I met only a decade or so back. There were more than a few tears.
At the Sydney launch, former best mates and fellow rugby league journalists Trevor Marshallsea and John McDonald met up and spent the entire night nattering; they’d not seen each other since 1993.

I am not yet bothering the best sellers list but people have come out of the woodwork to say they felt proud of me; even gnarly old blokes who don’t normally use that sort of language.

And intellectually I’ve come to understand much about the relationship between art and commerce – after decades of dealing with musicians and wondering at their idiosyncrasies. In an overwhelmingly good review, I found myself focusing on the only negative comment – as so many have in reviews I’ve written.
I have pondered the nature of the market for art; the fact that in my audience everyone who has brought a book will Tweet about it but everyone who is not on Twitter has seemingly not bought the book.
And I have ben left wondering if, by writing about my personal life and those in it and then going from door to door selling the book like a hawker, I am really prostituting myself and those close to me.
I have grown to understand why smart artists – like journalists – keep a healthy distance between themselves and commerce and how the current economy and paradigm is eating away at that distance.
For me, the distance has disappeared.
Buy a book.

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