Sex, Sartre and Madonna

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I WAS so determined last week not to mention Will Self's dazzling new novel, Cock & Bull (Bloomsbury, pounds 9.99) that I quite forgot to supply the name of my own new book, published this week by Michael O'Mara.

Worse, I seem in recent columns to have given a leg up to every publisher, publicist, actor and author in the land - with the possible exception of Madonna, and I expect her people to be on to me before this week's piece is finished.

Thanks to me, my new best friend, Jasmine Birtles, is about to appear on various comical news quizzes in place of the angry little one with the odd name; Peter Morgan has become even hotter than before and, to escape the telephone, is now trading from a barn in the Isle of Wight; and Max Clifford, my new PR supremo, has guested on Wogan and Spitting Image and been the subject, too, of a BBC 2 documentary.

The only person whose career hasn't taken off is the taxi driver who appeared here last week as the undeceived representative of British common sense. All in due course, no doubt.

Anyway, I won't make that mistake again, and I said as much to Max Clifford when he rang on Monday.

'I know what you're going to say,' I said. 'You're going to say that I didn't mention the name of my book last week.'

'What book?' he said. 'Listen - the phones haven't stopped ringing. What's the name of the taxi driver who dropped you off at O'Mara's last week? The one who said: 'You get out of life what you put into it'?'

'Norman. Why?'

'Richard Ingrams rang. He wants Norman to become the Oldie's 'Voice of Reason'.'

'Is that it?'

'Not by a long chalk,' said Clifford. 'Six publishers are after Antonia de Sancha's memoirs, Pat Cash is to guest on The Clothes Show and H2 only, the pure water company, are well pleased with the coverage you gave them. Now there's something you can do for me. I want you to mention Gnome Wars - a children's spectacular, directed by Bob Kemp, to be held at Christmas opposite Hamleys. Kemp did the special effects for Star Wars.'

That sounded like one to miss. Children, gnomes and special effects - the three most depressing things in the world. Hell would freeze before I'd mention them.

'Okay,' I said. 'But what about my book?'

'That's right,' said Clifford. 'Don't forget to mention its name this week. Well, I mustn't keep you.'

'Couldn't you get me some publicity?'

'That won't be easy. You could do a cross-over, I


'I'm not dressing up.'

'Nothing to do with dressing up. A cross-over is when I double up my clients. You'll have heard of Simone Hyams? She had a brief affair with Michael Winner. You could be seen at a premiere together. Oh - I almost forgot. Briar Silich would like you to ring her.'

This was exciting. Briar Silich sells Serial Rights for Reed Consumer Books, one of my publishers. But before I could ring her, Michael O'Mara's terrifying wife, Lesley, rang me.

'I know what you're going to say. Why didn't I mention the name of my book last week?'

'What book?' she said. 'In fact, I was going to say that if you must write about me in your column, you could at least plug the important stuff I'm working on. I'd like you to mention Bear Land - 500 Teddy Bears, with an introduction by Michael Bond.'

'Who's he?'

'What] He's Paddington Bear's daddy.'

'Aaaah. That's adorable.'

'Adorable nothing. I only said that for you, and I nearly threw up in the process. Well, I mustn't keep you.'

After a call from my temporary literary agent, Cat Ledger, to say that she was off to New York to sell Letter to Louise by Pauline Collins ('A poignant yet often funny memoir'), I was able at last to speak to Briar Silich.

'That's Silich with one 'l',' she said. 'As you know, we're about to publish Sex by Madonna. I'd like to engage the taxi driver you mentioned last week to compose a publicity hand-out.'

'Too late,' I said. 'He's been snapped up by the Oldie.'

'Not him. The French taxi driver who's an expert on Sartre. Sartre said that in the act of love the other becomes her body, thus losing in the eyes of her lover precisely that subjective freedom that he wants to possess. The most evident case of this, Sartre suggests, is sadomasochism, of which Madonna's work gives a fascinating analysis. See what you can do.'

That was depressing, but I was cheered up by a call from Max Clifford.

'Okay,' he said. 'You're off to a premiere next week.'

'What shall I wear? I don't want to let Miss Hyams down.'

'You're not going with Simone Hyams. You're going with Michael Winner.'

How jolly. Winner and I get on famously.

William Donaldson has once again neglected to name his new book, 'The Big One, The Black One, The Fat One and The Other One: My Life in Showbiz', Michael O'Mara Books Limited, pounds 14.99.