October 04, 2016

When author exposure turns deadly

As both a keen reader and regular reviewer of new books, I've commented previously in this blog that I'm probably in the minority as I prefer to know little or nothing about the author so that I can come to my own conclusions without being influenced by too much hype and information.

So I am now bemused, but not surprised, at the determination to expose the hugely popular author Elena Ferrante when a major part of the marketing of her books has been about her anonymity. Why are journalists and readers so keen to know everything about authors? How can gaining insight into their private lives, their politics, even what they wear or eat, improve one's reading experience never mind objectivity?

Surprisingly, movies don't work the same way. How many of us scrabble to know everything about the private lives of screenwriters? Perhaps because we already have the high visibility of the actors on the screen to reflect our aspirations and desires they are unnecessary.

My hubby knew nothing about maritime historical novelist Patrick O'Brian when he started to read his famous series of Jack Aubrey books. When the major revelations broke about O'Brian's past, he was quite upset that his upright literary hero was nothing like he thought he was and found that reading the books suddenly took on a different tone because the author's  allegedly " ... cold, bullying, isolated, snobbish ... " personality tended to intrude, whether or not it was true. Although hubby still regularly re-reads O'Brian today, his enjoyment of them has been diminished and says he has to force his awareness of O'Brian as an individual from his mind while doing so.

There's one author here in Australia who's earned many gongs for his books in a long career, with movies adapted from several. Other than one of his early titles which I read before I knew anything about him, I have since avoided the others simply because he's far too much in the public eye and his pontificating on social and political issues tends to annoy me. I would have a hard time reading his work without being conscious of his opinions and, shameful as it is to admit, his voice and looks. Yes, I'm as shallow and susceptible as the next foolish female when it comes to a handsome face, smooth talk and style, and if he looked and spoke like ... um ... Justin Trudeau ... maybe my arm could be twisted ... 

Speaking of whom, and nothing to do with literature, here are a few images that might make your day. 

L for Lancelot the Liberal? But wasn't it Arthur who pulled the sword from the stone? No matter, who cares about truth when dazzled by knights in shining armour.

Copyright Grooch at Deviant Art

Paper dolls weren't this cool when I was a girl.

Copyright New York Magazine

Now even the subject of a Marvel comic!

Copyright Ramon Perez and Marvel Comics

Copyright Bidness Etc

P.S.  I 'fess up. Here's an image of the Aussie author. Compare with the above. No contest.

Copyright Matt Davidson, The Age

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