Authors

Authors

Authors

Authors

Synopsis

This book is a defense of authorship--authorship whose public works proceed from and incorporate private lives. Examining the question of the presence of authors in their writings, and of certain authors in the writings of others, Miller focuses on the memorial writings of Louisa Stuart (1757-1851) and Primo Levi, and the work of a wide variety of other authors, including Cervantes, Samuel Richardson, V.S. Naipaul, Kingsley Amis, Peter Ackroyd, Milan Kundera, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and James Kelman. Published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the London Review of Books, the book also touches on the opinions and idiosyncrasy of authors; imitation, replication, and pastiche; ghosts; Hamlet and its enduring popularity; recent authorial crises and case histories; and literary journalism.

Excerpt

For many years now we have been accustomed to speak of authors in terms of intrusion. We intrude on their privacy, and discover their intrusion into the books they write. They should keep out of there, or should hide there. the concern with intrusion, with artistic impersonality, was a feature of Modernist programmes early in this century. Later in the century we have been told by experts that authors are absent, or unimportant, that the power of their individuality has been removed, and that the intending, responsible self of our working assumptions is a delusion. This is a century in which the self has survived, but in which it has not always been allowed to write books.

In the chapters that follow there is no claim that authors should be denied a private capacity, or prevented--if they wish it, and so far as their occupation permits it--from keeping themselves to themselves. Nor is there meant to be any idea that art and autobiography can never be usefully distinguished. But it is as well to say here that I believe, with the uninstructed, that authors have personal lives which they communicate--but which, as on many occasions in their private capacity, they may not obtrude or display and may even dissemble--in the various kinds of writing that they produce. the personal life of a given writer is seen as continuous with his or her works and the whole show is seen as exposed to a play of influence and resemblance, to an activity of other works and other lives, which nowhere justifies the presumption of any abrogation or transcendence of personality. It seems to me a mistake to suppose that there are works which escape what has been spoken of as the limitations of the personal.

These are among the matters treated in the present book. It has essays on writers, for the most part living novelists, whom I have enjoyed reading in recent years, and several of the books which come under discussion have seemed to me to raise points of interpretation which directly relate to the by now somewhat bewildering question of what authors are for those who read . . .

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