Thursday, January 28, 2010
How much information is too much information?
In the days before the Internet, I always faced biographies about my favorite authors with a certain amount of cringing. Bound to read the books assigned to me, I nonetheless hated reading about Rainer Maria Rilke’s philandering and Henry James’ obsession with his bowel movements.
Isn’t there something more edifying we’re hoping to learn when we read about great writers, beyond the smell of their socks?
Are we heartened when we learn that genius often—maybe always—blossoms in lives that are as flawed and fumbling as our own?
“Hey,” we say to ourselves in the uplifting tones of a cheerleader. “Never mind about the failed marriages, financial ruin, and siblings who haven’t spoken to us for the past two years. These greats of literature are even more messed up than I am!”
I can’t help thinking about these matters as I attempt to fill the voracious maw requiring more and more information on all the websites that every responsibly self-promoting author is obliged to feed these days. There’s my own website and the lovely micro-site that HarperCollins’ has made for me. There’s a neglected MySpace page for VIVALDI’S VIRGINS, and an as-yet-to-be built fan page on Facebook. There is Redroom.com, and there are all those friends I’ve never met on Goodreads.
Yes, I love anyone who reads my books, with a profligate, indiscriminate, all-embracing gratitude. Which is reason enough not to burden my readers and embarrass myself with Too Much Information.
What do you look for in authors’ web pages and blogs? What is it that you want to Ask the Writer?
You have a distinct advantage over the readers of yesteryear. Because chances are that you can ask your deepest, darkest, most personal questions, and get an honest answer, long before the writer becomes the property of biographers and worms.