My brother is an amateur criminologist with a thing for Jack the Ripper – maybe I have already mentioned in the past his blog, Red Jack – and yesterday he mentioned to me two interesting facts:
- Fact the first: we live in the area of Italy with the highest suicide rate in the nation (a fact I already knew and I think I mentioned in one of the Buscafusco stories)
- Fact the second: the Christmas season is the time in the year with the highest rate of suicides – the forced merriment increases the sense of solitude, just as the shopping frenzy can push people in financial difficulties towards dark thoughts.
And today a friend, a widely published British writer, mentioned on Facebook the fact that he once sought immortality through his art – or, if not sought, he sort of gave it a thought – but nowadays he’s sceptical. He observed, and I agree, that our books are not a reliable portrait, as they represent a snapshot of what we were in a certain moment in time.
Could you really build a portrait of myself by reading my stories in chronological order? I doubt it.
Because if it is true that we always put a piece of ourselves in our stories, it is also true that, as a commercial writer, there is also something else I need to work in: the publisher’s call, the theme of the anthology, the editor’s guidelines and his work on my text, the need to make a sale on my part.
In writing we do not reveal ourselves, but rather we masquerade, we don a costume to please an audience.
This is, incidentally, where I think that the idea of connecting with an author through social media might and often does short-circuit: should I play a part to meet the expectations of the readers, or will the readers be disappointed in discovering that I am not like, say, Felice Sabatini, or like Aculeo (or Amunet!), or like Buscafusco?
The discussion about immortality through art – or what passes for art hereabouts, stories – made me think about what will be of my books after I’m gone. I don’t know about the traditionally-published material, but my 101 (soon 102) self-published ebooks are likely to remain forever in the Amazon catalog, making a small residual profit for the platform forever and ever. E-mortality, to borrow a word from Brian Stableford, and to use it in the wrong way.
And I thought I’ll have to find a way to arrange for the royalties to be paid to my brother (my only surviving relation) and, after he’ll be gone too, to some worthy charity.
List this as a good proposition for the year 2019.
But I also thought that, given this state of affairs, I don’t want my future readers to know me through my books. I want them to wonder about me after reading my books.
I want them to say not, “Aha! Now I’ve got you figured out!”, but rather “What an intriguing chap, I wonder how he was really.”
Because what better way to go through eternity, than as a mystery?