The usual suspects: 7 characters at book launches

If you attend lots of book launches you will no doubt bump into some characters that will relentlessly irritate you. At least one of the seven characters listed below are likely to pop up at a literature event.

There are of course many more I could include, but here I have chosen to focus on the ones that irritate me the most. Like the people who attend book launches to openly critique books and authors they have never read. The restless ones who keep walking up and down.

It seems like microphones, confined spaces and (sometimes) free wine attracts them, so beware. We can only hope that you are not one of them.

1. The Narcissistic Captain Obvious

With an eager hand up during the entire show, you would think they would have something great to add to the conversation. Instead they will offer a ten minute long, half-arsed round up of the show, with no original insight at all.

Literary example:

When I thought of this character I automatically thought of the little bratty boy, David, from JM Coetzee’s latest offering The Childhood of Jesus. This boy has been led to believe he is always right, even though many of his arguments are somehow nonsensical. But not making sense has never stopped a narcissistic Captain Obvious.

2. The Aspiring Writer

This lovely character walks around with their unpublished manuscript and thrusts it onto anyone who is involved in the publishing sector regardless of their role or what genre the publishing company is focussed on.

Literary example:

Most of my favourite novels are filled with the aspiring writer sneaking around with a manuscript tucked underneath their arm. One of my favourite hungry writers is the main unnamed protagonist in Dambudzo Marechera’s The Black Insider. Unfortunately not all aspiring authors are as charming or talented as this writer.

3. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Even though there is nothing to dispute, this character will find some angle on which to posit their useless argument. With great zeal they argue about issues no one cares about.

Literary example:

Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is a hardcore character and has a smart comeback for almost anything anyone says to her. Yet she is justified, she is a genius which we really wish these unnecessarily argumentative people were. Stieg Larsson's popular trilogy would have been useless without such a strong-willed protagonist. Her stubborn stand is directed in the appropriate direction which makes me think that maybe some guidance is what our Mary, Mary Quite Contraries need.

4. The Wine Table Lurker

Book launches are synonymous with cheese and good wine. You will see this character lurking around the wine tables, and as the night progresses, they will degenerate into an unrecognisable slur.

Literary example:

A possible drunkard who is a selfish miser taking advantage of other people’s good heartedness? Yes, this is definitely the somehow humourous (aren’t they always) Fagin from Oliver Twist. It is perhaps unfortunate that the wine lurker is often suspected of being a pickpocket by organisers of book launches but I doubt they are remotely as criminal as Fagin is.

5. The Loud Latecomer

Just when the launch is at its peak, the loud latecomer will shuffle through the doors with their one million bags. Instead of sitting quietly in the corner where they belong they will interrupt the whole night’s events as they manoeuvre through the aisles, million bags in hand, to sit with their friend at the far end of the room while saying “Sorry, sorry, oh. Sorry.”

Literary example:

EL James is the epitome of the late comer. No pun intended here, I swear. She has caused quite a stir in literary circles with her Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Her entry as a published author was rather delayed and loud, writing her first novel in 2009 at the age of 46. I suspect some of the (possibly deserved) bitterness aimed at her work stems from jealousy: a writer who is raking in a substantial amount of money is not as common as it should be. You can check here

6. The Whisperer

You are trying to listen to the launch's speakers, and event that you have been looking forward to for weeks, and you are unable to concentrate because of the whispering behind you, which has the same effect on you as hearing a rat scouring through your rubbish. This lovely character is on the same level of irritation as the relentless smart phone typist (see number seven). You do wonder why the hell they bothered to come all the way to the event if they were going to spend all the time with their minds and energy elsewhere.

Literary example:

Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is loud and brash and will just not keep quiet. She will say what she wants with the little information she has. She does not belong in book launches as she will not be quiet. However, her insatiable desire for social mobility means she will attend the events nevertheless, whispering throughout, to your greatest distress.

7. The Relentless Smart Phone Typist

You have no idea why they are at the book launch: all you hear is their titter tatter as they type out meaningless “OMG” banter on their phones. You try to be non-judgemental, excuse them and assume they are on Twitter live-tweeting the event. One glance at their screen, however, and you are hit with very eloquent smiley faces and exclamation marks.

Literary example:

Okay, he did not have a smart phone but I can imagine that if Patrick Bateman from American Psycho went to a book launch in 2013, he would be obnoxious enough to spend all his time tapping away at his phone. And of course he knows he can do this, as anyone who gives him the disapproving stare would end up chopped into little pieces.

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