Friday, December 29, 2006

Helfen und Hoffen

I had a very fine Christmas and hope you did too. I'm back home and easing into work (most of my clients took the week off so it's light), and won't bore you with a list of gifts I received except to say they included a couple of good books and good toys, plus too much good food.

Just before Christmas I did receive a swell package from my German publisher Knesebeck: an envelope packed with German-language articles and reviews of Mom's Cancer (aka Mutter Hat Krebs) dating back to March. There were more than two dozen clips, some from prominent publications such as Zeit Wissen, Bunte, Bild am Sonntag, Suddeutsche Zeitung, and Stuttgarter Zeitung. A cover note from my contact at Knesebeck thanked me and added, "Your book was very well received in Germany," and from what I can understand picking through the reviews armed only with long-forgotten high school German and the Babelfish online translator, I think it was.

I've said before that it's a little unsettling to think of my words and pictures existing out in the world on their own, not knowing what mischief they're up to, only getting an occasional e-mail or postcard to let me know they're alive--moreso when those notes are written in a foreign tongue. I sent two kids to college last fall and, although I take my children's fates much more seriously than my cartoons', it's a similar feeling.

Sometimes I can tell a review has appeared when I see a jump in Web visitors from a particular region or referring URL and follow that trail back to its source. I confess I even Google my title once in a while just to see if anything new turns up. But by and large I have no way of knowing what anyone is saying about my book or if they're saying anything at all. Until I opened the envelope from Knesebeck I was aware of only two or three of these German reviews. Which made it a fine Christmas gift indeed.

I haven't heard anything lately about French or Italian editions that I understand are in the works. I'm assured that everything's fine, it just takes time. When I originally put Mom's Cancer on the Web I of course knew it might be read around the world, and the e-mails I received from Australia, Israel, Brazil, Europe and elsewhere were thrilling. But somehow seeing my work translated into another language, and reading articles and reviews about my work in that language, makes it more real. Mom hoped her story would inform, comfort, and help other people; although Mom's Cancer isn't a high-profile best-seller, and I remain a bit frustrated that so many people who might get something out of it will never see it, this packet of German reviews reminds me how well we've succeeded--really, far beyond any reasonable expectations we could have had.

Which isn't to say we've exceeded any unreasonable expectations. Like Han Solo said when told his reward for saving Princess Leia would be more wealth than he could imagine, "I don't know. I can imagine quite a bit."

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