How well do we know authors? How well should we?: Elena Ferrante Unmasked

Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels

Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan Novels

 

Rather than being acclaimed as masterpiece of sleuthing, there was a decidedly negative reaction to Gatti’s investigation. Most people felt that Ferrante’s multi-decade anonymity had been unnecessarily violated, and crucially without her consent. – David O’Dwyer, Irish Times

 

I was reading a brief article in the Irish Times this morning on the topic of Elena Ferrante, anonymous author of the “Neapolitan Novels” series, who she is, and if it’s any of our damn business. Italian journalist Claudio Gatti took it upon himself to seek out the author, unmasking her. Though it’s easily Googled, I’m not going to speak her name here – HINT: it’s not Voldemort.

I feel what he did was terribly wrong, stalker-ish behavior disrespectful of the author’s personal decision to conceal her identity.  As readers, no matter how much we love an author’s work, they owe us nothing. They produce art for public consumption, and should they choose to share themselves with us that’s a bonus. But we certainly don’t deserve it simply because we wish we knew. Their works are stand-alone, not invitations to the general public to investigate or obtain any ownership of the writer.

 

She wanted anonymity so her work would speak for her – I fully support that. – Ian Rankin

 

This set me thinking about the common tendency to speculate an author’s fiction is a reflection of his or her own experience, that no work of fictional prose comes solely from outside. So, we presume we know all about an author from reading his or her work, as well. We deconstruct and presume to know, but believing does not make it so.

Prose fiction is certainly shaped by the sum total of an author’s education and experience – it cannot happen any other way, consciously or unconsciously – but this does not mean we can analyze the author personally based on what s/he produces fictionally. It’s far too complex a matter to separate what’s the writer’s personality and what’s creative inspiration based on experience and inspiration outside the writer’s mind.

 

I have written a memoir here and there, and that takes its own form of selfishness and courage. However, generally speaking, I have no interest in writing about my own life or intruding in the privacy of those around me. – Peter Carey

 

It’s tempting, of course, to presume all fiction comes from a deep, dark spot in a writer’s psyche, but just because a thought occurs to a person that doesn’t mean it comes from that person’s own belief system or experience. It’s faulty logic. Ideas come from all sources; there is no original idea. How a theme is expanded upon is necessarily colored by a person’s experience, but we cannot know where reality ends and fiction picks up.

Writers are not public property. They may become celebrated, and may choose to interact with fans, but what they give is a persona, what they want us to see. It’s the same with everyone, creative or not. We show what we choose to, and owe nothing we don’t wish to share.

 

Secrecy is what is known, but not to everyone. Privacy is what allows us to keep what we know to ourselves. – Jill Lepore

 

Why should writers be held to a different standard just because readers want to know more? This sense of entitlement is over-reaching. It’s none of our damn business.

To the writer behind the pseudonym Elena Ferrante, you deserved your privacy. I was sorry to hear that was violated. Your fiction was gift enough.

It’s a shame human nature leads to the assumption we should be privy to a thing just because we wish it. It is what it is, but it’s one of many sad statements about the human condition.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear opinions.

 

 

Saturday Night Sushi, or, Bar the Doors! Here Come Those Weirdos With the Camera…

This past Saturday night saw a rare and unusual occurence. It saw BSR and Mr. BSR stepping out of the house. For dinner. Like real grown ups. It may be out of the ordinary, but every now and then it actually does happen. Like Halley’s Comet. Or a good hair day.

Besides the need for variety, conviviality and mingling with other adults, we have a new camera. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people in possession of a new camera are in pursuit of something photogenic with which to test said camera’s capabilities. So we took it out to dinner. But, we stopped short of taking it for a movie. There are limits. Img_0179

Well, at least *I* have my limits. Mr. BSR has been using the new camera to take photos of complete strangers (see photo at right: who ARE these people?!), but I’m a bit more restrained than that. Even if the people DO have beautiful dogs. And a sweet baby.

But I digress.

I’ll say this for them, the sushi chefs at Bistro Wasabi were remarkably unruffled as we took a myriad of photos of them. Though there were some shy smiles, for the most part they took it all in stride. I guess they’re used to all sorts of weirdly aberrant behavior. But that’s just what happens when you don’t lock the doors. You never know WHAt will wander in.

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What they make at Bistro Wasabi looks too pretty to be food. It seems a shame to eat it. Even the foods we couldn’t exactly identify were pretty. Okay, some of them looked a wee bit creepy, (a few of them appearing to be actually in the midst of attempted escape when they were trapped and squeezed between rice and seaweed), but the overall effect was amazingly aesthetically appealing.

Except for the octopus. Shudder. I don’t want to talk about the octopus… Human beings were not meant to eat things with suction cups. Period.

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Despite the shame it seemed to destroy these beautiful creations by eating them, we got over that pretty quickly.

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And over it, and over it, and over it…

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There simply may not be any prettier food than sushi, and there are definitely no foods more entertaining to see being made right in front of you.

Final verdict: YUM.

Two chopsticks up!

DISCLAIMER:  No flashes were used in the taking of these photos! Sudden, bright flashes of light and murderously sharp utensils do NOT mix. Do not try this at home.

Bluestalking Timeline: Crisis and Resolution

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2:40 p.m.

Middle child: Mom, my report on the digestive system’s due tomorrow.

BSR: Ummm…. Report? The one you told me about last week, but you didn’t know the due date? The one we thought wasn’t due for weeks?

Middle child: Yeah, that one.

BSR: You were going to ask the teacher when it was due…

Middle child: I forgot, but it’s due tomorrow. I have to do a model of the digestive system in clay. And I have to write a report on all the organs.

BSR:  Oh… (BSR flushes, grips steering wheel harder)

3:00 p.m.

Intrepid team arrives at craft/hobby store, in pursuit of clay.

3:30 p.m.

Team departs craft/hobby store with one huge tub of clay in four colors, one car model (for youngest child, to keep him occupied) and two photo storage boxes (well, they WERE on sale…).

3:45 p.m.

Popcorn popping at team headquarters, lemonade at the ready. Look of concern on all faces (well, save youngest child, who frankly couldn’t be bothered as he had a new car model).

4:00 – 4:59 p.m.

Team member BSR forms the esophagus, the first of the 10 required organs. BSR and middle child work feverishly, forming organs from clay.

Middle and youngest child snicker at proper usage of word “anus.” Hilarity ensues. Middle child ponders as to how the planet “Uranus” was named. Continued hilarity.

BSR operates label maker madly.

5:00 p.m.

“Mr. Digestion” completed

Img_0460 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Summary of various organs completed (i.e., written report).

8:01 p.m.

BSR breathes sigh of relief. Another crisis averted.

This Week’s Reading on the Light Side

Leavemealone_2 Reading time this week is precious hard to come by. Last weekend was a complete and total wash, between time spent working, going to the library’s staff dinner, watching the Bears’ game and various and sundry.

Monday was a day off for my children, due to “school improvement day” (your guess is as good as mine, it never looks any different to me…), and days off don’t generally equate to mucho reading time. So, what reading time I’ve managed to find has been clawed out of my everyday schedule.

Maureen Corrigan kept me company yesterday evening. I had a two hour wait whilst loinspring #1 had singing lessons for her musical theatre group, and Leave Me Alone functioned well as both a good read and a message to anyone who dared look my way. I bundle into a ball pretty well when I’m reading in public, but still there are people who feel compelled to ask what I’m reading. Message to you all: please don’t. I’m not sure what more I can do, body language-wise, to discourage people from asking that particular question, save go feral and snarl at them. Considering my daughter may continue on in musical theatre it’s probably best I don’t lead the other parents to think I’m rabid. That could impact her chances of getting future roles.

In other news, the puppy has been in chew-overdrive lately, after a short period of time in which we dared get optimistic about her behavior changing for the better. Here’s a partial list of what she’s ruined in the past week:

1. one pink marker (which she chose to chew on the white sofa)

2. one pen (blue, chewed on white carpeting)

3. several pencils (she has a graphite obsession)

4. one leather shoe (mine, thankfully from an older pair)

5. two strands carpeting (she has good taste; it’s expensive berber)

6. one-half stretchy robot toy (we’ll get the other half back later)

She also has a favorite new game. It’s really fun! Here are the rules:

1. Go outside to do “business”

2. Dig hole to China, snuffle in the snow

3. Repeat

4. Run around spasmodically for approximately 10 minutes

5. Sit down and shiver piteously

6. Come inside and eat proffered “good girl” treat

7. Find favorite piece of carpeting

8 Unload like a dump truck

9.Look at Master with appearance of remorse:

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(Photo by Lisa Guidarini)

Sigh.

Here’s hoping I find some more reading time. I need something to take my mind off the dog’s ruinous rampages. At least she’s not eating my books. Yet.

Where I am When I’m Not Reading, Writing, or Writing about Reading and Writing

Once a month I volunteer at my sons’ elementary school for a parent-lead program called “Get Smart With Art.” Volunteer parents in the program present a major artist to each class every month, then the children make an art project inspired by that artist’s work. We’ve covered a variety of artists, including: Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian and Leonardo da Vinci. This month’s choice focused on Native Americans, and to celebrate that culture the children made “pinch pots” out of clay. Well, pinch pots were the example, but the kids used their imaginations to make all sorts of things from wolves to tea sets. Each and every piece was completely unique.

Img_0169 Get Smart With Art is a program developed by the mother of a child who goes to my sons’ school. A graphic artist in her own right, she decided to step up to the plate when the arts funding in our school district became threatened. She developed the program from the ground up, doing everything from coming up with the concept, ironing out the details, asking for and getting public funding and organizing the parent volunteers. The program is now in its second year, and it’s still going strong.

I’d like to think every school has such enterprising parents, but I know it’s just not that way. It takes a certain kind of person to initiate a movement, and an awful lot of support to keep these movements going.Img_0166_1

The pay offs are obvious, and when the children can still recite, more than a year later, “Georges Seurat made a dot in a dot!” you know you’ve really hit on something important, something that can really make a strong impact on a child’s life.

I’m as proud to be a part of this art program as I am of anything else I do. In the long run, this is probably one of my most important endeavors, even if I only play a supporting role in the program.

Seeing the faces of these children light up when we roll the “art cart” in every month is nothing short of inspiring. It has me thinking maybe the battle to keep the arts a vital, living entity starts in the classroom. Maybe one of these children will go on to be the next Picasso, or maybe not, but at least all of them will go forward with an enthusiasm for creative expression and a greater appreciation for what inspires people to create art.  I think that’s the definition of unqualified success.

On the Topic of New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution

Main Entry: res·o·lu·tion
Pronunciation: "re-z&-'lü-sh&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English resolucioun, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French resolucion, from Latin resolution-, resolutio, from resolvere
1 : the act or process of resolving 2 : something that is resolved <made a resolution to mend my ways>

synonym see COURAGE

2007

The rest of you bloggers are putting me to shame, posting all these wonderful ideas about New Year’s resolutions. I really have had a resolution post in draft form since the first of the year (no, really!), but I wasn’t able to quite commit myself to it so there it still sits…

But now that the first week of January is careening out the door, I thought it seemed the time was right to finally make a pronouncement on my own resolutions for 2007. So, here goes.

Bluestalking Reader’s 2007 Resolutions:

(You are all my witnesses!)

1. Workout/get exercise 3-5 times weakly weekly.

2. Make a concerted effort to eat a better diet, re-learning all I used to know about nutrition but have conveniently “forgotten.”

3. Put time and renewed effort into cleaning/clearing out unneeded items from my home, selling/donating/throwing away what’s just creating clutter in my home and life, ONCE AND FOR ALL.

4. BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE – stop overloading my schedule and take a really hard look before I agree to take on new tasks.

5. Prioritize my time between my various creative interests, again making sure to achieve more BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE.

6. Organize all aspects of my life better, so I don’t forget so many things. If it takes purchasing a PDA, purchase a PDA!

7. Indulge more of my artistic interests in drawing/painting/photography. Either take classes or set aside time for those pursuits.

8. Re-educate myself on things I’ve forgotten. Try to learn/re-learn something new every day.

9. Never discount the possibility of forming new resolutions as I go along.

Reading Resolutions

A lot of bloggers have made very specific resolutions as to reading, and this is something I’ve given some thought to, but aside from maintaining variety between fiction and non-fiction genres, I really have no firm resolutions in this area. I’m happy with my reading quantity, so really all I want to do is keep up what I’ve been doing. I’d like to do some longer term author studies, though. These are the authors I’d like to study in more depth:

1. Charles Dickens

2. Virginia Woolf

3. William Faulkner

4. Thomas Hardy

5. Edith Wharton

6. Mark Twain

7. Victorian period genre study

8. Southern U.S. literature regional study

9. Early 20th century genre study

Of course, I wouldn’t do all of these at the same time! I don’t think I can even do all of this in the same decade, but I do want to eventually study all of these areas. In the midst of all this, though, I aim to keep on top of what’s new and up and coming.

I don’t ask for much, do I?

So, that’s it. I’m late out the gate but I have been standing behind the fence, observing while everyone else has been formulating their very thought-provoking resolutions. I aim to kick off in full force next week, allowing myself a sluggish start as it’s a very human tendency.

Opengate Best wishes to everyone else on your 2007 resolutions. I’d love to hear how you progress through the year, and I’ll try to report back on my successes/failures, as well.

Best of luck to us all!