As I sit here wearing full combat gear, chewing on a cuban cigar and fiddling with my moustache I am obliged to wonder if we give too much prominence to the character of the author these days. Do readers care and, if they do, should they?
All this focus on the person rather than the work priviliges the charismatic, the beautiful the promotable and detracts from the only important thing, the writing. I know it’s all very well for people like me - as I toss my long blonde hair over my shoulder, cross my endless legs and readjust my generous assets so that I don’t show too much perfectly tanned cleavage as I type, but what about you ordinary authors out there? you middle aged women who’ll never see thirty again or all you men you don’t wear hats like Terry Pratchett, who lack beards like Philip Ardagh or teeth like Martin Amis - how will you fare in PR campaigns?
It is fair to say that even the relative anonymity of tweeting and blogging still promote the person above the work. I blame Enid Blyton and her children’s tea parties - her fantasy of what a children’s writer should be.
For myself I don’t really care who wrote Shakespeare’s work - all I need to know about the writer lies in what is written.
I’d rather know nothing than be forced to engage with the notion of the writer. I was very upset to discover that Richmal Crompton was a woman, that PG Wodehouse broadcast for the nazis, MZB was an abuser and that Orson Scott Card espouses dubious political views. Suddenly the work became something other than itself; I could not un-know its provenance. Frankly, I prefer ignorance and that has made me chary about finding out about the authors of books I have loved. I don’t want to know - the books are what matters and some writers really do more harm than good by revealing their true selves.
As I fold back my wings and clean my claws between words, I wonder if I should pretend to be someone else, someone human and if that might help me sell more books. Or if I should eschew disguises, expose my tail and neatly cloven feet and say to hell with it all.
Read the book, damn you and leave the writer out of it!