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Saturday, February 9, 2013

True confessions - how much do we need to know?

We don't know much about Shakespeare's personal life. Who was Homer, then - apart from a character in The Simpsons? All those people who wrote the Gospels - does it matter that we don't know who they were?

The culture of celebrity and the everlasting poking and prying into people's private lives seems set to go on forever. There are new celebrity gossip magazines coming out all the time, but I'm sure I'd hate it if people really wanted to know all about my own personal life, or they printed photographs of me with my physical faults and failings ringed in thick red marker pen.

Luckily, most authors tend to escape this kind of scrutiny, and I'm sure the vast majority of us are grateful for that. But what if we want the reading public to know our secrets, feel our pain? Well, we can write confessional novels, can't we? 

I don't write confessional fiction myself. I'm going to avoid listening to The Bell Jar on Radio 4 this coming week because I don't think Sylvia Plath wanted people to identify her as the author of this novel, which was originally published under a pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. 

I wonder if she would have wanted it to stay that way, and I also wonder if she felt she had made a big mistake in publishing it, or even if it contributed to her early death? 

4 comments:

  1. I think my answer would be 'some'. I leave it up to my readers to decide which bits are 'me' and which are made-up!

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  2. None of my novels have 'me' in them - but maybe sometimes they have what I'd like do or say.

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  3. I love Sylvia Plath - and yes I'm going to avoid it too. There are many ways of telling the truth, but the raw you I think needs protecting from a nosy and not always kindly world, as more than one TV reality star has discovered too. I'm going to re-read her other work though.

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  4. I think that some readers have a morbid need to know something that is not there, but suspect is there. Personally, I like to see a picture of the author on the cover of the book, so I have an image of the person and creator of the words.

    But there is a definite line to be drawn when people have an unnecessary need to delve into the privacy of others, and I don't think that that need should ever be fulfilled.

    Unfortunately, there is money to be made by the media, and the public stop remembering that that person, is or was, actually another human being with feelings and failings, just as any other.

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