3 October 2010
Next came the ritual of showing.
Because The Jolly Pilgrim is an around-the-world true story, lots of other true stories intertwine with it. I met well over 1,000 people, from six continents, through the period it records. That breadth and diversity of world views is one of the things which facilitates the book’s thesis. The names of nearly 200 real people appear in the manuscript. So – for the sake of good form and to minimise the chances of someone trying to sue me – I had to try and track them down. It was a major job. Thank God for Facebook.
The tracking down required international phone calls, networking, googling and the calling in of favours. Bishop Anthony of Sydney was very gracious about letting me use his name. Nella, my sisterhood in Ecuador, proved unexpectedly elusive. I also had to get permission from organisations and public figures about which claims are made. With Oprah Winfrey’s people, there’s no getting a human on the phone. The BBC were extremely efficient.
When you haven’t spoken to someone in several years ‘I’ve written a book and you’re in it,’ turns out to be a much more compelling reintroduction than, ‘How are you?’ It also transpires that ‘You are in my book, are you happy for me to use your real name?’ is a no-brainer for almost everyone. People lap that stuff up.
But not everyone said yes.
‘You cannot record this.’
‘OK then, I’ll change your name.’
‘It’s fine, if I change your name. No one will know it’s you.’
‘I shared it with you. No one else. You will not put this in your book.’
And the policy is clear: I don’t publish anything about anyone they don’t like. This is a book about the underlying unity of humanity and its bright destiny, not nasty stuff. As for the most risqué bits (ahem …), the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
A surprising number of the real-life characters who fill the book were unlocatable: some had vanished off my radar and could not be found, others had scattered to the four winds, a few just never replied.
In the end I sent excerpts of the manuscript to Amsterdam, Belgrade, Bern, Brisbane, Bury St Edmunds, Belgium, Bensville, Brighton, California, Cajamarca, Canberra, Colchester, Derby, Diamond Creek, Dorset, Hackney, Haringey, Istanbul, Leytonstone, Lima, Maroubra, Mauritius, Melbourne, Newtown, New York, N16, Parramatta, Patagonia, Portland, Prague, Quito, Rome, SE6, Slovenia, Southampton, Stanmore, St Kilda, Sydney’s Central Business District, Turin, Wivenhoe and Zagreb.
With every excerpt I sent into that global constellation of humans (you know who you are) I enclosed a letter in an effort to pluck the strings which resonated between me and the person in question when we were in the same place (geographically, that is). People soon forget the joys of now in the haze of human recollection – so I’ve tried to fix flashes of it into immortality, sending out parcels to the crazy ones, the beautiful ones, the dreamers, the inscrutable and the hard nuts.
I get really tough when people fuck with me. – Hillary Clinton
Fun thing: I’ve written my first magazine article for several years. It’s about actuaries and has little to do with The Jolly Pilgrim. Check it out. I stole the octopus line from the last blog. I’m mildly titillated to have been declared ‘The Actuary Writer of the Month’ (I got a voucher).