Sunday, September 12, 2010
Nabokov and deceit.
Reading Nabokov's Lectures on Literature led me to come across his claim that authors must be experts of deceit - he argues that nature is deceitful and authors follow in nature's footsteps.
But I don't want to deceive people when I write simply because I'm not that kind of person. If you're willingly deceitful, is that a positive quality to have? When I published Disassociation I included a note at the beginnng stating that none of the events within the plot occurred in my real life and that it was all fiction. People have read it and believed that the story was based on my own life regardless of the note I left, which isn't the case. I never had two best friends who were violent and dangerous, I never went to Juvenile Detention and I never moved to Montreal by myself. I'll admit that it's somewhat flattering to hear people say they believe the plot actually happened - I was glad I wrote it realistically enough for that to happen.
But I never led them on. I never tried to deceive them and say that it really did happen, like other authors who've sadly gained attention and adulation for doing so which is completely idiotic. I came across a similar quote in Neil Gaiman's work of all people which stated that "Writers are liars."
I can't fit myself into these expectations. Sometimes it feels like authors say these things to atone for their own transgressions/guilt, but I'm not saying that's the case here. I just want to write and not try to fit into any expectations.
Not caring about what other people think, doing what feels most comfortable to me.
Yet when I consider Nabokov's intelligence...his reputation...his influence...it just puts pressure on me when I try to dismiss his expectations of deceit. Is the power of his wisdom/influence more important than my resolve not to fall into his pattern? Henry Miller once wrote in a letter to Anaïs Nin that he believed he was a great man. I don't have that level of self-esteem, should I? I consider that being egotistical. But sometimes it feels like I need that level of self-assurance in order to maintain my beliefs.
I believe in autonomy, that an author's own morals and deeds influence the way I regard their work. Some people would argue that their work stands independent of their own life but being a writer myself I can't agree with that. If I was violent towards people, abused women, abused my parents, was wasteful and conniving and hypocritical yet wrote well-crafted work could you really value my work considering how little of a real man I was? If my work was a way to make amends for my behaviour and to dispel my pent-up anger and angst, is that justifiable grounds for being destructive to everyone around me?
This ties into the argument people make that "Well, his work is so good that it's okay for him to act disrespectful to people around him" (thinking of Christian Bök here). I don't really believe that. In a previous post I discussed Jorge Luis Borges' view that people don't have the soul of a writer; they only view writing as a craft to be learned and practiced, and I think that applies here.
I think an author should be humble and have positive values for their work to be respected. That's not to say that they should write bland repetitive material, nor that they should act holier-than-thou, but they should be someone whom others can respect. Can you respect someone who's purposefully deceitful?