Off the Grid?

LitKicks member stevadore asks an interesting question prompted by a discussion earlier this week:

“The post on John Twelve Hawks got me thinking … between him and Lemony Snicket, is the future of publishing books going to couched in the author creating a whole separate persona? Is it all just a gimmick to promote sales? If so, do you think it’s a justifiable action, or a cheap sell out?”

Is this merely another facet of a long tradition of pseudonyms in the writing world? Or is the increasing number of books being published forcing authors to pull “stunts” for publicity? Does this kind of mystery surrounding an author pique your curiousity or is it all in the writing?

7 Responses

  1. identityI can see this issue

    I can see this issue two possible ways. Yeah, an alternate identity can be off-putting in that it indicates insincerity, and can be used as a gimmick. Personally, though, I’m on the side of wanting the author’s identity (or multiple identities) to be a part of the overall work. I like it when Paul Auster shows up in Paul Auster’s novels. I like it that Miguel de Cervantes pretends to have found the original Arabic manuscript to “Don Quixote” at a bazaar and translated it into Spanish (all of which is untrue), and I like it that Samuel Clemens felt he had to morph himself into Mark Twain in order to become the kind of author he wanted to be. In all these cases, I think the dimension of uncertain identity is consistent with the work, and adds to it.

  2. Well I don’t know about all
    Well I don’t know about all that. I think these cases are a different class of “stunts” and in the examples you present, the work holds its own, despite/without/in spite of any author personal hijinks. I’d like to think that ultimately the identity (or identities) of an author are going to show up in a work on some level, and I’d (personally) rather find them there without all the dramatic rigamarole.

  3. my thoughtsTo be honest, I
    my thoughts

    To be honest, I think I lose a little interest when authors try to be mysterious or create an alternate reality, or what have you. Unless of course that’s really who they are and they aren’t making anything up. I guess some authors feel they need to create alter-egos or characters or fake names or strange situations to publish their book, and who knows why? Maybe they feel the book wouldn’t be published otherwise, or maybe they are shy and that’s the only way they feel they can get the works out there. Perhaps what matters in the end, is,after all the mystery or hype, is the book they wrote good to the reader. There, that’s my answer.

  4. I agree with you. The main
    I agree with you. The main question is, is it a good book?

  5. Clint Eastwood It occurs to
    Clint Eastwood

    It occurs to me that the trend of mysteriousness (be it actual eccentricity or a contrived sales ploy) is not limited to writers. Consider the music group Gorillas, created by Damon Albarn of Blur who came on the scene as a band of Japanimation singers. Maybe there is an element of celebrity that artists feel they need to escape, or maybe the public just eats that image up.

    The fact is that we live in a world today where anybody can make up an identity, some of them quite detailed, and write anything from online poetry to recipes for lentil soup. Maybe Lemony Snicket is just a reflection of the same kind of anonymity that we all enjoy on the internet.

    Johannes de Silentio

  6. Lemony Snicketi’d just like
    Lemony Snicket

    i’d just like to point out that Lemony Snicket isn’t “living off the grid” out of preference, he does so out of necessity, so that he can avoid the authorities and Count Olaf in order to bring to light the lamentable tale of the Baudelaire orphans.

    Snicket is a different case anyway, he’s not so much an author as a character in the book (i love the image of him typing away whilst hiding under the alter of the Church of the Alleged Virgin). it’s a gimmick, sure, but it fits the story, which is far more important.

    Twelve Hawks is probably more in the tradition of Pynchon or James Tiptree Jr (no one knew who he was until *she* died), or even Christopher Marlowe who had to fake his own death in order to write the works of the Earl of Oxford.

  7. survivalist idealThe way they
    survivalist ideal

    The way they used to tell me was that with solar and wind power, casting their own bullets and organic farming; they only needed gunpowder and the telephone.
    I did have one survivalist friend, a sci-fi fan, who came in off the grid and sold his 1000 rounds of ammunition.

    Most folks I know like to learn the news and, in East Asia, everyone has one or two cellphones.

    What billectric said is at the heart of the matter: is it a good read?

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