A box of Growls on the dining room table.

A box of Growls on the dining room table.

I’m reading Growl for the first time as a book. I’ve read it before umpteen times in various incarnations as a manuscript, a work in progress (or not in progress, as the case invariably was). But now that it’s published, holding the finished book in my hands, turning the pages, reading along the lines, well, it’s all a bit strange. It was also strange to see a box of Growls waiting to be opened sitting on the dining room table. All that effort, I thought, grief, anguish, hard work, frustration, self-doubt, self-pity, anxiety…..sitting there in a box.

Of course, it’s all that and much more.

It’s a finished, printed book with my name as the author on the cover. Holding it in my hands for the first time, flipping through the pages, well, it didn’t seem real. ‘Aren’t you excited?’ I was asked repeatedly in the last weeks knowing that this moment was imminent. ‘No,’ I said. And, indeed, I wasn’t. It was anticlimactic. It was surreal. It wasn’t a moment I savoured. There wasn’t any celebration.

It didn’t help that my partner, Gary, was struggling with a horrid cold after returning from two weeks in the U.S. It didn’t help that I also felt I was coming down with the same bug. As it turns out, I was but not as badly. It didn’t help that what has taken to write, produce, and publish Growl has been years, if not decades of work. And now it seems that the book I held was no longer my own. It had a life of its own.

People, I realised, are going to make what they will out of it. And I, the author, will be judged accordingly. Rightly. Or wrongly. For there are things said in Growl which won’t make some people happy. In fact, it’s going to make them angry and, in some cases, further right me off as a sell-out. Others won’t like what I write about their animal rights work. Most likely, there isn’t anything I could say or do that would keep them happy anyway. So, I’ve prepared myself with saying,

You don’t have to like Growl. No one, least of all me, is forcing you or anyone else to agree with me.

At the Bristol VegFest last weekend, one man posed a question after my Growl-themed presentation, well, he made a statement to the effect that people are all shits and we’re all doomed. Tempted as I was to agree with him, I soft peddled it a bit by saying that I understood how he felt and mumbled something about that that way of thinking wasn’t going to get us anywhere. But what I really wanted to say was, ‘Why the fuck did you bother coming to the VegFest if that’s how you felt? Next question, please!’

It’s not going to bother me if people disagree with what I have to say. In fact, I feel even more emboldened to speak the truth as I see it. But if there are truly reasonable opportunities for respectful, rational, and reasonable debate, well, I welcome them.

Meanwhile, as I continue to read Growl–the book, it strangely feels that I’m following the thoughts of someone else but who is a lot like me. Yes, of course, I wrote it, and many people influenced and helped me along the way. I had the great fortune to work with finest of editors, Martin Rowe, who challenged me to do better. But I recall what I’ve heard authors said. Once it’s published, a book has a life of its own.

Have a good trip, Growl. It’s been (mostly) nice knowing you. Now, it’s time for me to take my next voyage of discovery–except that Growl is demanding its promotion and marketing.

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