Monday, 25 January 2010

Death of the Author [Pt 2]

The Author as Whore

After an extensive investigation of the entire British readership (well, the ten people who responded to my post on The Fall forum), it is clear that the birth of the reader has not come at the death of the author. Instead, the author has been reborn as our whore, our lover, our Friday fuck.

According to the ten people who responded to my thread, reading trends among savvy middle-brow readers seem to indicate that what people look for in an author is security. We yearn to feel safe in an author’s hands, to be able to love them totally and wildly, to connect with them as deeply as possible and build a meaningful long-term relationship.

The analogy is obvious. The author is another form of lover, partner, dirty little secret.

It begins thus: we walk into a book shop, catch the eye of a book’s cover or title, and allow our interest to be piqued by the blurb. We practice the same superficiality when we’re fishing for totty in singles bars: we go on looks alone, hoping the personality matches the package.

When we take the book home, like a sweaty encounter with a fresh slab of love-meat, we pounce upon the text: groping the nouns, fondling the verbs, and doing nasty things with the adverbs. Sometimes the experience is the release we require and we connect deeply with the text, and other times, it is a boozy tussle laced with regret and shame.

Once the novel is over, like the aftermath of a one-night stand, we stumble from the experience, turning to the cover of our lover with the poser: “Sorry, what was your name again?”

And so, once we entwine ourselves to a literary lover, they no longer become “an author” we like, they become intellectual partners. Over the years, we snuggle close to these people, taking various things from various partners, until that inevitable moment of disappointment comes – that awkward racial slur, that excruciating love scene, that tedious fourth novel – and the relationship ends.

We become fed up with their stylistic tricks, their samey dialogue, their recurring themes, their increasingly blatant flaws and failures. When we break up with them, ordinarily, we break up with them for good. Sometimes, as with a lover from our youth we might return to years later, our hearts will be stolen again.

For the author, the readership is his harem. It is his job to find as many concubines as possible, to implant his literary semen into the readership so that next generation may turn to his books, spawning a legacy to be proud of. If his mojo fades, soon the writer floppycocks into obscurity, begging agents for blowjobs, begging readers for a sad boozy kiss.

For the reader, the author is one of many lovers. We must be as promiscuous as possible. Some of us change lovers as often as we change authors. Some of us flirt with a writer, batting our eyes at his prose, and might even scan one or two of his pages – the literary equivalent of the backroom snog – but nothing more. Regardless, the author will always insinuate himself into our intellectual lives in that personal way some lovers cannot: they delve deep inside us and achieve intimacy on a level unattainable through real-life relationships.

Quoth Will Self: “All my work is highly personal; it's more personal than me. You know, reading my books is having a far more intimate relationship with me than having a relationship with me.”


  1. What about the novels that are like a jet-ski ride and the author doesn't want you to call them tomorrow?

    You're talking prmarily about 1 trick ponies.

    I'm in favor of the Bob Dylans and David Bowies of this world (their literary equivalents anyway), those that spurn fan loyalty and frequently re-invent themselves.
    What happened to the Blonde on Blonde Dylan, or Iggy Stardust?

    Sometimes a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, but I like the "caterpillar->butterfly->Rhinocerous->Tornado" changes personally.

    Oh, we all have our favorite country walk, spotting more details each trek - but sometimes there's nothing like the transporter glitching and sending us somewhere totally unexpected.

  2. Nay, nay, good sir! I speak not of the one-trick pony.

    I'm talking about the Bob Dylans and David Bowies too. We are constantly having to reshape and adapt ourselves to keep our relationships (and relationships with the readers) fresh and exciting.

    The problem with the Dylans/Bowies is they were all whirlwind, hype, power, voice, genius, and dazzle, then our relationship with them came to a crashing sorry end in the 1980s. Now we pay them only a passing glace for novelty's sake.

    The good thing about relationships with writers is you can go back and relive those tingly sensations you got when you first read them. Alas, you can't do that with a sagging auld lover.

  3. Nice subject for my own blog there Mark. You don't reshape yourself to keep the relationship, the relatioship responds to you reshaping yourself for more selfish motives.
    With Mr BD, he didn't renew his relationship with old fans - the tart kept going for fresh blood. He divorced more fan groups than Holywood stars have husband and wives!
    I think the difference in emphasis between thee (in this blog page) and me is:
    Thee thinks in terms of keeping a regular and long lasting buying public.
    Me thinks in terms of "That's neat, let's capture it in writing". The capture and not the selling drives me. I've said before that I can make more money from extra-curricular classes and swimming lessons.
    Publishing, and being paid for it, just affirms that I'm getting good at my craft.

  4. Ha! Yes, that's very true, me old mucker! Or both partners reshape themselves in entirely the wrong way and the whole union kabooms.

    When I started writing six or seven years ago I wanted to capture everything in writing. Every emotion, experience, banal observation, unfunny comment, went down. It became overwhelming.

    Now, I have to think about which emotions, experiences, observations, and unfunny comments other will want to read, and how to carve some semblance of a writing career from this.

    I have, of course, taken the necessary precautions to avoid poverty. I've inherited a free bungalow in the Highlands from my girlfriend's mother. Creative mooching.