The Author Is Dead (was Re: Jane Austen was a lot of re that I snipped off)

Kyra Jucovy klj at
Wed Jun 20 19:28:08 EDT 2001

On Wed, 20 Jun 2001, Melissa Proffitt wrote:

> The first way is, in my opinion, always wrong.  It is simply unfair to
> accuse a writer of anything based on one's reaction to a plot element.  It
> would be one thing to say "I didn't like this book because I thought Mary
> got a raw deal."  It's completely different to say "Because Mary got a raw
> deal I think Jane Austen has no sympathy for others and is mean."  And I say
> this precisely *because* I'm aware of the author's existence as a real
> person.  To me it seems like hating a complete stranger because of a single
> item of gossip.

   This interests me - what about a situation like Philip Dick's _Valis_
(I suppose Philip Roth does the same thing too, but I know a good deal
more about _Valis_) where an author explicitly writes a fictional work
about him/herself?  B/c in a case like that, aren't you sort of opening
yourself up to being judged on how you presented yourself?  . . .although
with _Valis_ it works the opposite way for me; after reading up about how
much of the book was drawn off of PKD's real experiences, I'll admit that
I was pretty convinced he was insane, but I was _deeply_ impressed by
how: a) he was willing to admit to being insane and b) was able to use
that to make a powerful work of art.  And in this case I'd also have
to say that I felt reading about his life gave me a deeper
appreciation of the book - but I think that's mainly because I'm so
impressed by his use of his experiences.  Would you say that this was
an illegimate reaction, though, because I shouldn't assume anything about
the way he chose to portray himself any more than I should about how he
chose to portray any other character?
   Hmm. . . what about criticism of nonfiction?  Does the author fit in
at all with nonfiction, or is the situation no different than with
   Hopefully these questions aren't too naive - but you've been
sufficiently clear as to spur some interest!


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