The wheels of the publishing industry turn incredibly slowly. It’s quite normal for a book to take two full years from acceptance by a publisher to actually hitting the shelves. There are so many behind-the-scenes stages a book has to go through between acceptance and publication day. Even after the author delivers the final manuscript and it’s officially accepted, there are the final edits, the copy edits, the cover copy, all to be gone through in meticulous detail and agreed.
Then, about six months before the release date the publisher will start sending out the manuscript to other authors they think will be interested in providing a few choice words of endorsement in support of the book.
So this is how, a few months ago, I got hold of a copy of Jessica Gaitán Johanesson’s “The Nerves and Their Endings: Essays on Crisis and Response” due out on August 11th.
I was really keen to read it. Here’s why:
When my own book The Clearing came out the timing, as it turned out, was pretty disastrous. Full lockdown was announced just days after publication day and my whole publicity schedule was abruptly cancelled. Bookshops closed. Festival appearances and talks cancelled. My publicist was put on furlough. I was devastated. Ten years of work in the writing of The Clearing looked like it was going to vanish into a big black hole of nothing. Of course, we all had bigger things to worry about at the time, but still….it stung.
One beacon of hope was offered by the Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh. With all physical bookshops forced to close, the Lighthouse were quick on their feet to pivot to selling books online. They happily and promptly delivered books anywhere. They certainly kept me well-provided with excellent reading matter during those lockdown weeks that turned into months.
I was so impressed with the ethos of the Lighthouse Bookshop, not only in the impressive list of books they sell and their service to readers, but also in the way they showed solidarity with authors in action as well as words.
So when I found out that one of the Lighthouse bookshop team, Jessica Gaitán Johanesson, was an author too, I definitely wanted to read her new book as soon as I could get my hands on it. I was not dissappointed. “The Nerves and Their Endings” is a brave, compassionate and clear-eyed book.
Jessica ‘stays with the trouble’ of climate, environmental and social injustice with searching honesty. Tangled, raw and sparking with intelligence, this collection of interconnected essays shows how the personal and the political, the human body and the earth’s body, are knotted together.
As living, feeling, thinking beings our nervous system connects with the world’s systems. When the world is sick, we are too.
Jessica asks the hard questions and tackles them with integrity and an open heart. There are no trite answers offered here. In these essays she challenges the tunnel vision of fear-based responses to the multiplying crises of our times. She is alert to the unevenness of suffering, the cushioning afforded by privilege and the responsibility to act that this implies.
“The Nerves and their Endings” offers an honest exploration of what ‘hope’ might look and feel like in these times, and why we need hope in order ‘not to feel responsible but to ably respond.’
This is an important and timely book that asks how we might live in a time of climate collapse, how we might build community, understanding and tolerance.
So the next time an author you follow starts shyly suggesting that you might like to pre-order their upcoming book, don’t hesitate – get that order in!