ANOTHER OVERGROWN SCHOOLBOY WITH A HALF-LIFE CRISIS
Antique Sellers get depressed, they get depressed. We tackled Marcel
d'Agenau the lapsed author in the Cinammon Cafe in Falmouth on the eve
of his 50 birthday and got him talking. Marcel talks to Tabitha Towe
'Turning 30 was a year long crisis I seem to recall. Full of tortured
feelings about not have quite reached all the goals I set myself, worrying
about losing hair - little did I realise then that I was having the
most successful year of my life so far. Hindsight brings little comfort.'
'My God, my output was amazing at thirty. Two novels published that
year, living in New York and London, by thirty one, the second book
'Eeny Meeny Miny Mole ' was in the Sunday Times ten best sellers
list (at ten) and my third was about to go into print. I was so busy,
I didnt notice I wasnt actually having a life. Didnt
real the contracts too well either. Four novels in four years and nothing
to show for it.'
'Forty was agony. Well six months leading up to it was. Where had all
the success gone? Couldnt be more broke and I had the worst agent
in the Western World. Friends were thinking that I was probably burned
out. Actually the day I turned 40 was great, celebrated in the City
of York with all the people I loved most in the world at that time.
Nicolas and Manina were there, Beverly and Geof, John, I am sure some
others. A month later I was in Vancouver again and depressed. A book
contract had gone sour, a $12,000 cheque had bounced, the publishers
gone belly up. I took it badly, worse Id sat so long at the bloody
typewriter to write it I had to be hospitalised for an emergency operation
for piles on New Years Day. Piles are no joke, men dont like to
talk about it, but heres a warning, if you are suffering DO NOT
IGNORE IT.. (Anyone will know who has had it, that the piles op is hell,
well the recovery part is, and the bastards give you tons of laxatives
to make you shit through the stitches. Oh joy).'
'I came out of hospital just as the Gulf War began on TV. Everyone else
remembers CNN and reporters talking on rooftops as missiles flew over.
I just recall sitting in very hot baths and going Ow lots,
crawling over to the sofa to watch more war, than back to the bath.
Im sure there was more to it than that, but thats all I
can recall. Oh yes, just before the operation I had a brainwave for
a great screenplay and wrote all my notes on the sheets. I had to buy
the sheets from the hospital and I spent the entire gulf war trying
to decipher my hastily scrawled notes. The script is still my best,
but I never yet sold it.'
'Of course, having the Worlds Worst Agent didn't help. If I thought
my UK agents were bad and they were TERRIBLE, my Canadian agent, a man
so bad at his job, he couldn't even get a script to a producer, even
if they screamed down the phone to him to send it. In the end he resorted
to faking letters from famous producers in Hollywood to prove there
was interest. I heard they finally took him away in a straight jacket.
Its hard to have a writing career with your agent being strapped
to a bed and poked with cattle prods. Somewhere around this time I began
selling antiques in Cornwall. Long before Fox Mulder said it, I was
telling my customers Trust No One. (Especially the 18th
'So, here I am approaching the big deathwatch - 50. And weirdly, I am
living exactly as I was when I was thirty, only not exactly in the best-seller
list. I am sure there is a plan to all of this, but I have put myself
in the position where I live nowhere, - literally, so I can move to
the next place wherever that will be. I have a great business
in the wrong place. I know theres tons of people all over the
world whod love to work and sell antiques in Cornwall, but no
one could dislike a place more than I dislike Cornwall. The house is
sold, my debts are paid, the credit card is empty, I have nothing except
stock of 19th century furniture I can get rid of if I wanted to and
I cant recall a time like this since I was 30.'
'My girlfriend must have caught a whiff of this and casually dumped
me about four months ago. Of course we still talk to each other every
day because sad people we are, like many long term couples, who else?
The long term partner knows all your secrets, shares all your dreams
and desires and well, its hard to break off. When I think of all
the acrimony other couples go through, we seem to missed out on that.
Of course it is very annoying when the love of your life continues going
to all the places that you used to go together and then calls you on
the cellphone to ask, do I turn left or right from here,
did I like the chicken, or was it you? She doesnt
know how much this tortures me. I am stuck down here in the English
Hades and she is living my life without me. I am dead already. This
is what it feels like to be a ghost. You cant resist answering
the call, but feel empty inside because you cant taste the wine.'
'Sometimes I wonder what happened to the career. Never trust a publisher,
dont even dine with one. When are you going to write something
new people ask. Well, when a publisher pays up front is the answer.
Then they can go bust.'
'Fifty sounds so big. So daunting. It isnt a mid-life crisis.
Forty is a mid-life crisis. When you turn fifty, you have at best thirty
years to go. Thirty getting harder years. Harder of hearing, harder
of artieries, harder to please. The downside. Sure there might be a
good autumn, but its only every going to be glorious sunsets.
Thats why she left. The loved one, that is. Why waste a good young
life on a sunset.'
'At best I have ten years left to make something lasting. Im fighting
an astrological chart that talks of ephemeral success. Hell Im
even good at ephemeral success. So there we are, migrating from books
to the web, still writing, hackwriter to the last. '
'How to celebrate turning 50? Got this plan to fly to somewhere hot,
swim lots, get a tan, maybe go to New York for a few days, with the
tan. Do something really ephemeral, like go to Barbados, or Hawaii?
Never been to Hawaii or Singapore. Yes, that seems like a plan. Go somewhere
I have never been and just be as far away from who and what I am, as
I can. A place that doesn't even like antiques. Of course Ill
have to come back to it all and the credit card will be full, but who
cares, Ill be fifty, theres a lifetime to pay for it right?'
'It will be spontaneous. Come second week of October Im going
to disappear. Thats what it will be. Just another overgrown schoolboy
with a half-life crisis - thats all.'
If you have a nice place to share on Biarritz beach or a Singapore beach...let
me know. (Hetros only Im afraid).
Marcel d'Agneau in conversation with Tabitha Towe- September
© Hackwriters and Tabitha Towe 2000
Read the Tabytha Towe Diaries