Publishers. Always “really excited”, never really interested.
Following instructions imparted to me three years ago, I eventually set up a website one year ago, where people could come to “get to know the author,” as the very excited publisher person on the other end of the line told me I absolutely had to do. I posted some stuff, which, in an effort to upgrade my site last night I inadvertently deleted by clicking yes to some update that promised me a stable version of WordPress. Always in search of stability in my life, I agreed and they deleted my posts and, worse, a nice picture of Rome I had taken with my own camera. So this is effectively my first post. Four books written, one post. No photos. I’ll try and rectify these matters soon.
Let’s go back to that phrase “get to know the author”. I see at least eight problems with it.
In the first place, I have read many books without ever wanting to meet their authors. The books are fine (or very often not, as the case may be). Why would I want to meet the author if I have the book? The only reason I can think of is that meeting the author is somehow more rewarding, which implies that meeting people is a superior experience to reading. I think that may well be true, but in that case I should have spent more of my life trying to meet people, socialise and smile. Too late for that now. Besides, a lot of authors are not just dead boring in real life, they are also actually dead.
Second problem. You don’t “get to know” the author from a blog. He is still writing stuff at you (unless he is one of the dead ones). Just read the books – at least more care will have gone into them.
Third problem. Author. Being an author is not a proper job like a fireman or a bricklayer, not in the sense that it gives you a stable identity. I imagine if a fireman is out, say, shopping in a supermarket with his wife and kids on a Saturday, he’ll probably be sometimes thinking “Hey, I am a father”, and sometimes “Hey, I am a fireman,” along with all the other usual human thoughts about growing old, death, money, that woman over there, disappointment, the strange and terrifying light-headedness of the other day, was that mole there before, how can I possibly be hungry again, I wish I could afford that, look at that slack-jawed moron with the tattoo, why can they make trolleys with wheels that go straight… When the fireman passes an author, the author will be thinking similar thoughts but, when it comes to his job description, his vocation, he’ll be thinking “I wish I knew what I was doing, because I can hardly keep this up forever.”
If he happens to be a massively successful author, he’s probably thinking “I wish I wrote good stuff instead.”
If he’s in no doubt that what he writes is excellent, and marches down the aisle passing the fireman frowning at the boxes of cornflakes, with the thought “I am an Author” clear and visible in his head like the Hollywood sign, then he’s probably not been published. Or she, in her head. Please feel free to sweep back and forwards to change the gender of all the pronouns in this. Usually I am less sexist, but today I don’t feel confident enough to be comprehensive.
Fourth problem. What right do you have to get to know the author? Get to know yourself first before you presume to get to know me or anyone else.
Fifth problem. There seems to be a presumption of “knowingness” going on. Surely the author should know himself before attempting to share this knowledge?
Sixth problem. If the author knows himself, he may well have concluded that it is far better both for him and for others that what he knows is kept as much as possible in his own head. You don’t show off your gangrened limb at a party so that people can get to know it. Stuff needs to be covered up. Catholics used to be good at this. Muslims still are.
Seventh problem. Revision and truth. I wrote above that I saw ay least eight” problems with the phrase “get to know the author”. Now I find I have got to number seven, and either forgotten what I was going to say, or I simply threw out the number eight because it has a nice open vocalic sound to it, and perhaps you were a bit drawn to read on to see how I would make such a simple phrase problematic in eight ways.
The obvious solution, then, is for me to go back and change “eight” to “six”. After all, I have just admitted that eight was a pretty random number chosen for reasons of assonance. An assonant lie. But I feel that to change it, and therefore to give the idea that my thoughts were well structured from the beginning, would be the greater lie now. Revision is a lie, which is fine in a book, but maybe not in a blog. So what about the typos? Should I leave them, too? Well, I think they can go. That’s just fingerwork, and it’s not important because I am not a guitarist. So what about awkward repetitions and unfortunate phrasing? Maybe they’ll have to stay for the sake of integrity. I’ll get Microsoft to correct the misspelling, but what about the awkward repetitions and unfortunate phrasing?
Eighth problem. Well, there isn’t one – see seven above. I had to put this here for those who allow their bored eyes to wander down the page after internet page skimming as we vainly look for significance, balance and structure. You didn’t find it here, but what are you doing looking for it in a blog? Look to your own life.