Sunday, November 20

Defending an Author

Being sometimes urged on to write something, articles,stories,poetry , just for the sake of writing, I also wonder often that where does the urge come from. And then naturally follows the question , that why do authors write, is it only some form of escapism on their part and even if it is from some, then is it to be condoned or not ? Is it that they want to throw in the towel and simply sit upon something which has 'nothing to do' - churning thoughts, ideas and plots and keeping on moving the pen and typing on the computer. But I personally keep such uncharitable thoughts more for that unsavoury breed of idlers called as philosophers rather than the people who have given me priceless hours of delight, and joy, and adventure, and emotion.

To start with, of course I know that most of the authors have written and are writing for money, simply money. Even the greats have had to do it occasionally, and the lesser mortals by compulsion. What I hate though is the hype that is sometimes created around a third-rate author, though it is another matter that the author concerned himself/herself feels embarassed in private at the praise that the world is handing out to him/her. ( Once the hype is there, you can neatly divide the followers into two categories :- the enthusiasts, and the fools. Of course, there are those who are seeing money in justifying the hype, but then they are not followers but props upon which the whole flimsy and yet magnificient structure is standing upon)

So, I start with the more sincere breed among the authors - the ones who either write to simply say what they've got to say, or the others who write for propaganda in something which they believe in. In this latter category I can put people like Rand( for capitalism) or Gorky(for communism) or even Zola( he himself admitting that he his simply investigating the effects of heredity and environment). In fact, all of these latter people, the people who belong to the latter category , might themselves not be called very sincere. Rand and Gorky are themselves much muddle-headed in sorting out what they want to say and see, though probably for different reasons; Gorky simply because he was muddled up, and Rand because she dared not show the true teeth of herself and her capitalism, since not being things which could be publicly very appraised. Painfully I have to put Zola also in the somewhat insincere though he always built up the situations, the tensions, the characters so remarkably well, and in fact called up an image before the reader. But these only point to fine natural talents, honed by an acute observation and enhanced by a desire to write, to tell something to the world, to be immortal as only an artist can. But then why I call him insincere ? Maybe his lack of versatility is the spot on his shirt-collar. Why does he have to write always about the wretched, not only financially but also morally, why always a cold impassioned view of things, why nothing good shines through, why nothing which has not caught the rust of the society in which the protagonists are living. Even if there is someone who is meant to be heroic, there is always something tragic lurking about, clinging to that character. Why not somebody like a Mr. Crisparkle from Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood ? Dark tones are all very well, but even in a totally dark work there is something disturbing to the core of the heart, and that is only when you are producing something keeping a definite direction in mind, doing something worthwhile with the sincerity of your heart and soul, something which prevents your work from becoming simply a social commentary of the times, valued more maybe by sociologists and historians rather than discerning readers.

I say discerning readers, since readers often reject great works also. I have seen masses and the intelligentsia, both in agreement for once, reject something which is in fact quite excellent , which has always been very inexplicable to me, but more on that later on sometime. People have rejected Walter Scott for his rather tedious language, but I think that is more due to a lack of a feeling of romance rather than anything else. Or maybe because the SMS language is hip , and not the Scotty one. But I started out with something other than this to talk about, and I will not budge.

Zola reminds me of something which all authors do and have to do - pilfering. But then again, a question arises in my mind that is it pilfering or not ? I of course do not mean by pilfering the ages old issue that every artist takes something from all the artists that he has ever been introduced to, and possibly owes something to other artists as well since the world in which he is living has been shaped, guided, and moulded by them all along the way. But what I mean is pilfering from circumstances.
Taking the case of Zola by instance. Living himself in poverty of course gives him invaluable materials to use in his writing, but observing others dispassionately and to use their emotions, their details of life, their lifestyles in your work - is it pilfering or not ? Of course, an author cannot survive without setting some sort of background to his stories and without throwing in some details to make the setting credible to the reader, and I am not crying hoarse that an author shouldn't do this, of course he should, but I am only asking myself that how much right has a person to wring out of the intensity of the life that people around him are living the few pages of writing. Also sometimes harsh on the author him/herself. He has to act so many parts just like an actor, that just like an actor he could end up being totally dead of emotion, totally drained of emotion if has turned out to be a brilliant author/actor and while having lived the private lives of all the characters that he has acted out, he couldn't act his own ever, he couldn't live his life ever.
Does an author use his fellow-men and their emotions just as their more scientifically-inclined counterparts do so with rats and rabbits ? Or do only some, maybe more shallow in emotions like Shakespeare and Chekhov, do so ? ( Forgive my judgement, consider me a dolt, but then this is my blog) I think that the answer lies here. The answer lies again in gauging the sincerity of the writer. Authors like Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde (both maybe very witty on that account) look to me just the sort of people who would not stop from playing upon the feelings of anyone, who would not stop from prying, while on the other side of the spectrum are authors like Dostoyevsky who felt everything themselves and wrote, and maybe that is why not very versatile. In the middle are probably the best, the likes of Dickens, Scott and Ibsen, a little prying into the affairs, and a little sincerity, and combined entertainingly enough.

And now the question, that why does an author write ? After all, its his ideas, his imaginings, his stories. Why should I care about them. And in today's world, someone very irreverent enough might even ask that an author is simply a service provider to him/her, content to his taste is getting delivered to him/her and the author is getting paid for it, then why the hullaballoo , why regard the author greater than the games developer, the coder who is coding those wonderful artificial intelligence into the characters of my game , why ?

As for the first question, the answer which comes uppermost in mind that an author is simply an egotist, bent on imagining that what he writes is important and amusing to the world, is for the edification of the world in general , a lazy animal who has converted his pastime of writing beautifully into a money-making business for himself, a career for himself. But is it the right answer ? Yes , they are his stories, but he his not writing only because he has some inflated notions of their importance, but rather because he is living different lives through his characters, he is become the God , he has created men and animals and the world in which they all act as he chooses them to act ? Well, but not much different from a computer games developer, from a simulation game . Not much different ? Don't you spot it ? He has simply not created those characters, but he is living with them, inside them , he is living each of their lives himself, he has become the veritable God who has created man and yet is living in the heart of each man. And don't you see the challenge of it all - he has to become the developer, the psychiatrist, the actor, and the businessman all in one, and there lies the answer to the second question.

Of course, this blog is simply the work of an incorrigible egotist. And an enthusiast.

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