Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shell over Shell

Robert Kaplow has written a very funny book, Who's Killing the Great Writers of America. Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel, so far, are the targets. A character looking and acting like Steve Martin keeps showing up and may be "a person of interest." Remarkably, as the POV changes, so does the style, to reflect the writer in focus at the moment. Of course, it's hyped satire, and in that hyperbole lies a nugget of wisdom that makes the book a model of psychology as well as of style. Each of these mega-selling writers appears as an ego that has thickened to encase the human individual completely. Every action is calculated to boost the image. King's fearful stories fit him like a suit, as does Clancy's military, action-packed persona, Steel's ultra-sexy themes, etc. Never do we pierce this armor.

And that shell effect makes me stop reading long enough to wonder how many of us are caught up in being A Writer, rather than in being a human being who writes. I think there's a distinction. A Writer is a public figure, obeying the rules of the market and media. He/she responds to the demands of tending the outer shell that has become the controlling image by which the world at large knows him/her. This may, I suspect, lead such A Writer to create only in his own image. I hope I'd beware of the pressure and prefer to be me, writing. I think I want to write because it satisfies me. Not to say I don't want readers, because I certainly do. But I don't want to grow that carapace that will prevent me from writing out of my humanity. Vigilance!

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