?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Past | The Previous

Author Authenticity

I've been reading the Gunter Grass debate lately with a bit of interest. In case you've missed it, Grass, the Germany born, Nobel Prize Winning author of novels such as the Tin Drum and My Century, has revealed that in the second World War he was conscripted to a tank division of the Waffen SS. The Waffen SS units were, from what I understand, responsible for the guarding of concentration camps. The problem rises from that fact that Grass has, for the last sixty years, claimed that he was conscripted to an anti-aircraft unit.

It is interesting to watch the responses. Some people have called for Grass to be charged as a war criminal, which is a bit of an over reaction, I feel. Others have said that he should return his Nobel Prize. I don't really see much of a point in that, either. Others have accused him of simply using the story to drum up business for his war memoirs, which are being released in Germany shortly (or have been, already). Certainly it has worked on me, but then I've always liked Grass, so I'm an easy touch. Likewise, since I do like his work, and I am not German, and have not had to listen to Grass lecture me about the cultural morals and responsibilities of Germans, I am less bothered by his deceptions than others might be.

What interests me, however, is how bent out of shape people get when they find out an author has misrepresented him or herself. It's especially of interest because I examine a whole lot of author hoaxes in Twenty-Lies/One Truth, and let me just say, the list is somewhat endless. It stretches across gender. It stretches across ethnicity. Across genre. Fuck, authors have been lying about themselves since they started writing, it seems, and people have been getting bent out of shape about it since they first figured it. It is as if they feel that they have been conned, lured into a trick, and have been personally insulted.

Yet, for much of the cases, the work in question have related to fiction. Grass is a bad example of this, simply because he has used his fiction to be a moral, outraged voice, but there are other examples. What interests me about the author hoaxes, however, is how they are connected to what appears to be an undercurrent in literature over what is taken seriously, and what is important, that this element of the work is somehow related to truth--either through the author's life, or cultural heritage. If you can hit that truth button, suddenly you are lifted out of you genre, out of your imperfections as an author, and given a larger, and more important place in literature. Should you never have it, you will not be given the seriousness that your work, even if it is of a high quality, even if it might deserve; and should you be found out to be lying, then you'll be crucified.

It's the kind of thing I could get easily obsessed about.

At any rate, consider this: Gunter Grass is being attacked in the media because he lied about where his conscription landed him, but yet, he still did not fire a shot, and reportedly made himself ill to get out of service. Anne Perry, on the other hand, is the author of historical murder mysteries. In truth, she is Juliet Hulme, who, along with Pauline Parker, planned and executed, the murder of Parker's mother in 1954. This resulted in Parker hitting her mother in the head with a brick forty-five times. Since 1979, Hulme has published over 50 novels detailing fictional murders. She continues still.

Comments

( 80 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )
ratmmjess
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
I'm still undecided on how much moral culpability someone should bear when they come from the background Grass did and were his age. Easy to judge him from a distance, but hard to say that any of us, given how young he was and the environment he grew up in, would have done anything different.

Perry/Hulme, on the other hand...I don't know of any public statement she's made about it. I do know that she's "encouraged" her cadre of fans not to ask her about it, and those fans have in turn gotten awfully shirty with people who raise the issue.
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)

yeah, i am in agreement about grass. it's hard to know how i would have reacted in any of it. i might not have even tried to get myself out of the unit, had i been conscripted. sometimes i have a habit of just accepting and rolling on in a situation.

i didn't know that about perry's fans. heh. how funny.
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 05:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_benpayne119 - Aug. 17th, 2006 07:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 08:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 05:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 07:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 10:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 06:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 10:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 18th, 2006 10:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 20th, 2006 11:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 20th, 2006 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 20th, 2006 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodhichitta0 - Aug. 17th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 18th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodhichitta0 - Aug. 18th, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 20th, 2006 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ataxi - Aug. 17th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_benpayne119 - Aug. 17th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_chrisbil - Aug. 17th, 2006 09:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_chrisbil - Aug. 17th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_chrisbil - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
ataxi
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
"and the bombing of Dresden"

I'm confused. I thought the fire-bombing of Dresden was among the worst things the Allies (not the Nazis) did during WWII. Not that this has much relevance to the content of your post either way.
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:23 am (UTC)
sorry. i think they were at dresden. or something. brain fart. i deleted the reference, since i couldn't find the original reference. this is what i get for writing a post without references open.
(no subject) - ataxi - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC) - Expand
lyndarama
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
Interesting; Anne Perry's bio purports to be updated but still leaves out big chunks of her life, referring to previous events as 'that grief' http://www.anneperry.net/3.html and skimming over the whole thing like it was something to be rather disdainful about; like the dog shitting on a rug...
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
i love this:

"I began the 'Monk' series in order to explore a different , darker character, and to raise questions about responsibility, particularly that of a person for acts he cannot remember. How much of a person's identity is bound up in memory? All our reactions, decisions, etc. spring from what we know, have experienced. We are in so may ways the sum of all we have been!"
(no subject) - lyndarama - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:50 am (UTC) - Expand
jody_macgregor
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)
Every time I see Anne Perry's books on display at the library I'm tempted. I mean, a lot of authors write about murder, but she has something of a rare perspective. What are the killings like in her books, I wonder? Visceral and brutal or tame and bloodless? And which would be more disturbing to read?
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:28 am (UTC)
who knows? i've never brought myself to where i would willingly buy one. they seem like a kind of chick lit murder mystery stuff. a couple of times i thought real hard about it, for curiosity sakes, tho.
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariness - Aug. 17th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ratmmjess - Aug. 17th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariness - Aug. 17th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC) - Expand
thehornedgod
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
The girl from Heavenly Creatures writes murder mysteries? Unbelievable.
jody_macgregor
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:50 am (UTC)
And fantasy novels too.
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC) - Expand
ex_benpayne119
Aug. 17th, 2006 07:39 am (UTC)
It's weird... I agree with you that it's odd the way "truth" is used to elevate a novelist's work... even if, for instance, they openly say that a work is fictional, but their background happens to coincide with some aspect of the protagonist's...

i don't know entirely how i feel about it... on the one hand, I think, well if your liking of a book is reliant on some perception of the author's persona, then surely you're not really judging the book... but on the other hand, where do you draw the line? If I read a biography and i discover it's lies I'd be pissed off... but is that so different?

benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 08:18 am (UTC)
it's a strange thing, isn't it? i think i'm beginning to find why peter carey finds the concept so interesting.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 17th, 2006 08:46 am (UTC)
It goes back to the romantic notion of poet as prophet - a writer is supposed to be an inspired genius whose elevated thoughts lift the rest of us closer to some kind of insight or truth. All genres can be held to this standard. And so when authors deceive - about anything - they loose their status as prophets, and readers feel cheated because they thought they had garnered a truth or truths from their readings. I think this lingering ideology conditions most reading although not genereally on a conscious level.

About Grass being culpable for being conscripted - that's bullshit. My government daily does things in my name I don't agree with.

Agnes
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)
you know, i really like that notion of the poet and the prophet. that's cool. is it yours?

and i figure all our governments are doing things we don't agree with each day.
ex_chrisbil
Aug. 17th, 2006 09:30 am (UTC)
Ben, I'd highly recommend you try and find a short story collection called On The Yankee Station by William Boyd, and read the last story (it's called Long Story Short). It dives into this subject with reckless abandon and is brilliantly surreal. It's about murder, as well! The author writes it as if he's guilty, from a first person perspective. It's great, some brilliant lines in it too.

"You write fiction, you're telling lies, pal."
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:19 am (UTC)
cool. added to want list. shall keep and eye out. i've heard of boyd round, butnevr had a reason to check him.
(no subject) - ex_chrisbil - Aug. 17th, 2006 11:44 am (UTC) - Expand
ashamel
Aug. 17th, 2006 10:17 am (UTC)
What do you make of something like Bones, a somewhat unrealistic TV show (based on the first ep anyway) "inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and best-selling novelist Kathy Reichs"?
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 11:08 am (UTC)
i've never seen the show, but i've no real problem with the concept. it's quite common. you can see ellis and templesmith doing a similar thing (except for the best selling author part) in FELL.
(no subject) - ashamel - Aug. 17th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Aug. 17th, 2006 12:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashamel - Aug. 17th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
drjon
Aug. 17th, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC)
> What interests me, however, is how bent out of shape people get when they find out an author has misrepresented him or herself.

Authors are people who get paid to make things up. And people know this, and *still* get bent out of shape about it. You should write a book about the weird shit people believe when they have every reason not to.
benpeek
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
people write those things all the time ;)
bodhichitta0
Aug. 17th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
"What interests me about the author hoaxes, however, is how they are connected to what appears to be an undercurrent in literature over what is taken seriously, and what is important, that this element of the work is somehow related to truth--either through the author's life, or cultural heritage. If you can hit that truth button, suddenly you are lifted out of you genre, out of your imperfections as an author, and given a larger, and more important place in literature. Should you never have it, you will not be given the seriousness that your work, even if it is of a high quality, even if it might deserve; and should you be found out to be lying, then you'll be crucified."

Amen. Next post, please, Ben--what are the origins of this?
benpeek
Aug. 18th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
ah, you know me, i just make this shit up on the fly.
( 80 Soaking Up Bandwidth — Soak Up Bandwidth )