Monday, February 4, 2013

Reclusive Writers

The author of our book for this week, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, is Patrick Suskind. When I first began researching him, intending to write a short biographical post about him for today, I discovered that he was born in 1947 and his list of works stopped in the late 1990s. I assumed he had died. But I read further and found that no, he's still kicking; he's just doing it very privately.

Suskind has become a reclusive writer, withdrawing from the literary world and the public eye.

This is not uncommon, even when the writer is still active, even at the peak of his/her career. Some of the greatest writers ever were recluses.

Harper Lee (1926-) The author of To Kill a Mockingbird (1961) and dear friend of renowned bombastic center-of-attention Truman Capote is sort of a "recluse lite." She has been very involved in the literary community, accepting honorary degrees (but turning down the opportunity to give speeches) and attending conferences, ceremonies, and festivals. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, which is the highest civilian award in the United States.  I remember hearing some time ago that a journalist had written her a letter, begging her to do an interview, to which Harper Lee (who does not do interviews), responded with something along the lines of "Go away, Bitch!" The journalist was appalled, but later realized that she was infringing on Lee's well known wishes; no interviews and to be left in peace.  The journalist wrote a second time, telling Lee how she enjoyed her work and was glad that she (the journalist) was able to partake in it, but didn't mention any sort of interview.  Lee responded favorably to the letter, talking to the woman about the book and what had led to it.

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010) We love a banned author here at Review Me Twice, and Salinger is no exception. His Catcher in the Rye (1951) has its fair share of profanity, and many parents have protested its use in school curricula. In September of 1961, Time magazine devoted an issue to Salinger, with his photo gracing the cover, discussing his life isolated from the public.
Thomas Pynchon (1937-) I'm not terribly familiar with Pynchon's work, but I do know that it's very complex and intense, like Gravity's Rainbow (1973). Pynchon has avoided divulging details of his private life for over four decades, and even with the internet, photos of him are rare. He did have a bit of fun, doing voice work for The Simpsons on a few separate occasions. (My favorite is the episode "All's Fair in Oven War" where his lines all contain puns of his titles, referring to a "Gravity's Rainbow cookbook" that contains a recipe for "The Frying of Latke 49.")
Bill Watterson (1958-) Yes, even comic artist/writers can be reclusive. The "Calvin & Hobbes" creator refuses to give signatures or even license his characters (feeling it would devalue them). He is all but untraceable now that the beloved cartoon's run is ended, and spends much time painting.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) What list of reclusive authors would be complete without this notably introverted poetess? When her mother became ill, she was relied upon more and more to see to the domestic duties, which suited her, because she was happy when she was inside, with books. It has been theorized that she suffered from agoraphobia, and her most productive years (in a literary sense) were also her most withdrawn from society. The majority of her work was published posthumously, because she did not offer it up for publishing. (She had left instructions to have her correspondence burned upon her death, but said nothing of her notebooks and other writings.  And from what I understand, there were a few correspondence that made it through, but not a lot.  This is only what I've heard, however, so don't take it for fact.)


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