It is of course always dangerous to make conclusions about an author from her/his books.
But like a lot of readers, especially teen readers, I thought about the lives of authors all the time when I read their books.
I was a big fan of Bret Easton Ellis in high school, but I always suspected he was a jerk.
For better or worse, twitter has allowed us to know much more about the actual human beings who write books. It turns out that I was totally right about Bret Easton Ellis being a jerk!
Wallace’s work can be needy (but it is self-consciously needy). It can be conservative (but so what? In both structure and language, Wallace’s work was also more radical and disruptive than any contemporary novelist I’ve read. Certainly up there with Toni Morrison. The tension between the conservative ideas in a postmodern context is part of what makes Wallace’s work so important and interesting).
But I am really bothered by the accusation of pretension. I don’t really know why it annoys me so much. I guess Ellis’s central talent is as an irritant. I suspect he wouldn’t even mind my saying so, which is even more irritating. But anyway, in my opinion Wallace’s writing is radically unpretentious. Wallace’s stories tackle very complex ideas in ways that are consistently playful and accessible, and that is their genius. Yes, Wallace’s work can be exhausting and tedious because of its obsessive need to be clear and precise and intellectually rigorous. But that isn’t pretension.
It’s a free country. People can do whatever they want within the law, and even some things not within the law…I personally was on Facebook for two weeks as part of a piece of journalism I was writing — it seemed sort of dumb to me. Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose…it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium.
People I care about are readers…particularly serious readers and writers, these are my people. And we do not like to yak about ourselves.
First, the Oprah Winfrey book club was too plebeian, now Twitter is irresponsible. I wonder what Franzen thinks of A Void by Georges Perec, which does not contain the letter ‘E’.
There are those who moan, oh, Shakespeare wouldn’t have written all those wonderful plays for us to “modern update” if he’d had Angry Birds and Darklady.com. Is it so terrible, here in the 21st century? A sonnet is perfect Tumblr-length, and given the persistent debates over the authorship of his work, the bard would have benefited from modern, cutting-edge identity theft protection. The old masters didn’t even have freaking penicillin. I think Nietzsche would have endured non-BCC’d e-mail dispatches in exchange for pills to de-spongify his syphilitic brain, and we can all agree Virginia Woolf could’ve used a scrip for serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I digress. The Internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel: you are. People write novels in prison, for chrissakes.
Colson Whitehead, Better Than Renting Out a Windowless Room: The Blessed Distraction of Technology, Publishers Weekly
PS: Whitehead, by the way, is possibly that best Twitterer in the WWW (Whole Wide World, not World Wide Web.).
As the article notes, it’s time-consuming and tiring though.
Publishers Weekly: Who’s Got Pull in the Twitterverse. (“Who’s got” sounds awful…)
Huffington Post: The best and worst book publishers’ websites.
Admirable, but I don’t care for ANY of the books mentioned.
When authors write delightful essays like this, I want to buy every single copy of their books. And the newish Virago paperback covers makes it so tempting.
In the evening on Monday, one of my Twitter colleagues remarked that she couldn’t believe “Moody” hadn’t become a trending topic on Twitter for the day. Really? I can. You know why? Nobody cares. Oh, not nobody. A few thousand people care, the same few thousand who care about the National Book Awards and ebook formatting. Those few thousand are enough of a market if you’re set up to do business that way. But it’s not enough to support the whole industry. To the general public, Rick Moody’s name probably rings out only as the guy who wrote the book that the movie The Ice Storm was based on, if that. Books simply don’t have the cultural reach of movies or music or sports or politics. And that, right there, is the problem. But from where I sit, much of the book industry seems content to talk amongst themselves.
Vroman’s Bookstore webmaster Patrick Brown on the Rick Moody Twitter Saga
Lesson: retweet discreetly, not indiscriminately.