The Writer or the Writing

Okay, try this out. You read a new novel or a short story or a collection of poetry. You are highly impressed. What’s the first thing you do?

Do you look up the author on Google or Wikipedia? I do. I can’t help myself. I like the work but I’m more interested in the author. This isn’t usually the case with looking up the director of a movie or the painter of a work of art. But with fiction, something within us wants to know about the person who created the work.

We SHOULD be going on to Amazon to find other works so we can read more by this person who has intrigued us with their abilities. But instead we focus on the person.

This is the premise behind my current work-in-progress (currently on hold per my last blog post). It is a metafiction titled The Novel Titled “This is Not a Novel.” The title itself is an enigma. The work purports to be the fictional biography of a writer named H.B. Berlow….written by myself, a writer whose name is H.B. Berlow. Then it deviates into various biographies or other works of fiction by various writers from past times whose initials were the same. A literary joke, a pretentious conceit, or food for thought? It is intended to be the latter.

While it is true that some authors’ personal histories are intriguing to the point where they would “make a good story”, I truly believe that, marketing aside, the focus should be squarely on the work itself. Literary critics use all aspects of a work to provide erudite analysis. What they do not do is talk about the author’s life.

Take the example of B. Traven, the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which was made into the Academy Award winning film starring Humphrey Bogart. This individual did everything possible to cloud the history, circumstances, and details of his life. To this day, there is no concrete answer. By doing this, he has unintentionally diverted interest in his work to the mystery of his life.

All of which makes me ask the question: Why is the author’s life more significant than his work? For right now, I am going to keep living and keep writing. I hope you will still be interested.

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