Must we treat even serious writers of fiction or poetry as if they were celebrities to be interviewed and examined for the quality of their clothing? I have never understood the idea that novels or poems, or even a writer's entire body of work, can't be assessed without knowing something further about the personal circumstances behind them.Seriously, I couldn't agree more. Years ago a friend asked me to read a draft of a novel he'd written. This was the first time anyone I knew had asked me to read anything so significant, and I was excited to read it and flattered he'd asked me.
Well, I couldn't get into the novel. Throughout it, I kept seeing my friend writing it, hearing him speak the characters' dialogue, wondering which of our friends inspired which of his characters, recognizing our haunts in his settings. And, having a fairly good idea of how he thought, I found myself correctly anticipating how he'd handle the situations in the novel and, when I didn't, wondering why my friend hadn't done what I'd expected him to do.
I couldn't separate my friend from his novel. Instead of reading his novel as a novel, I read it as a reflection of my friend, a somewhat cryptic letter he'd written to me that needed a little deciphering. This made it impossible for me to read it as it was intended to be read.
I've since noticed that the less I know about an author, the better. How many times have I read a great book and, unable to restrain myself, researched the author, found an interview or two, and discovered that the author was a complete jackass? Or, conversely, how many times have I read an interview with an author, liked what the author had to say, and then found the author's books unreadable? The author's perrsonal information is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, completely distracting.
In this era of celebrity everything, it's getting harder to hide from an author's personality and opinions and clothing and hairstyles and, as a result, I'm finding it harder to keep these authors from interfering with their own works. They're either my friends or my enemies, it seems, each competing in my mind with their works, just as my perception of my friend competed with his novel.
The alert reader will immediately intuit that the author of this blog conceals his true identity because, underneath it all, he's a jackass. No comment.