One launches a ship, or an attack, so why is that the term we use for a book? Is there anything about a book that resembles a ship or an attack? Those are deep, philosophical questions that I don’t really feel qualified to answer. Like a ship, a book has a name, or title, and like an attack, a book sets out to conquer something or someone out there. But it is rather a quaint idea, when all is said and done, to equate one little volume containing nothing but words to the majesty of an ocean liner or the potential devastation of a military campaign. But that is the convention, and so when my good friend Sarah offered to hold a book launch for me, I naturally jumped at the idea.
Thus, Sarah, aided and abetted by her husband Martin, who happens to be my cousin, opened their lovely home in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighbourhood to friends and acquaintainces for the occasion. As far as I knew they were going to serve just coffee and cake, but when we walked in we found that they had put on a lavish spread, replete with goodies, cakes, and sundry delicacies that were a delight to the eye and a temptation to the palate. Just for that alone it was worthwhile getting there.
The occasion happened to coincide with a day of icy cold temperatures and pouring rain in Jerusalem. In addition, the municipality has been digging up the area outside Sarah and Martin’s house for several months in order to lay new sewage pipes. This meant that access to the house, which is difficult at the best of times, was further impeded by wet and muddy surfaces and puddles of various sizes and depths. We had sent out warnings to all those who had agreed to attend, describing the best way to get there, where to park without incurring a parking fine and what footwear it would be advisable to wear. As expected, quite a few of those who had said they would come found at the last moment that they couldn’t make it. I can’t say I blame them, as although I was born and brought up in London, and so supposedly inured to inclement weather, more than forty years of living in Jerusalem have evidently had their effect, and I’m as reluctant as anyone else to venture out into the cold and the rain if I don’t absolutely have to.
All the same, about ten intrepid souls did make the effort to come, and it was to them that I gave a little talk about how I came to write the book, what I was trying to achieve, what influenced me and how I arrived at the title (and added a subtitle, as instructed by the publisher). The balancing game was an actual game that the protagonist and her sisters used to play in their shared bedroom, ‘the nursery,’ in their childhood. Although the book is not an autobiography, it contains autobiographical elements. In effect, it attempts to describe the efforts invested by children in maintaining some kind of mental and physical equilibrium between two worlds, that of the home and that of the world outside, and which in this particular case were radically different from one another. I had originally thought of calling the book after the road the family lived in, but later came to see that the game I described was actually a metaphor for the life of the children.
After I had talked for a little while about the background to the book, I read out a passage, which caused the audience to respond with laughter, as I had hoped. I had a hard job keeping my own composure, but I think I managed it. Someone pointed out that the scene I described, a family meal, could also be defined as a balancing game. That was something that hadn’t occurred to me previously, but it added another dimension to the occasion. Anyone wanting to read more about the book can go to http://sbpra.com/DorotheaShefer-Vanson, or order it direct from the Amazon or Barnes and Noble sites.
Afterwards, we all fell on the food and drink, those present purchased the copies of my book I had brought with me, and everyone then wended their respective ways home, stepping delicately through the mud and the puddles once more.
I can never thank Sarah and Martin enough for their kindness, warmth and hospitality, and have promised them that if and when I ever publish another book, I’ll try to do it in the dry season.