In today’s world, where online presence and public appearances are often stipulated in publishing contracts, writers are, basically, performance artists. Does it impact their writing, and should it?
“Through the last century, the relationship between readers and writers was largely impersonal. The reader related in the first instance to a book, not to its writer; and writers, for their part, did not confront their audience directly in the manner of musicians, singers, actors and so on. This was … one of the reasons why writers were able to take greater risks in hurling defiance at society at large.
The situation has changed dramatically in recent years. The internet … has made it possible to subject writers to great pressure … If this process continues unchecked, its impact on the freedom of thought and expression may be greater than any explicit policy of repression.”
“literature is coming to be embedded within a wider culture of public spectacles and performances. This process, which got underway almost imperceptibly, has now achieved a momentum where it seems to be overtaking, and indeed overwhelming, writing itself as the primary end of a life in letters.
A frequently heard argument in favour of book festivals is that they provide a venue for writers to meet the reading public. Although appealing, this argument is based on a flawed premise in that it assumes that attendance is equivalent to approbation. Books, by their very nature often give offence and create outrage, and this is bound to be especially so in circumstances where there are deep anxieties about how certain groups are perceived and represented.
Performances are secondary and inessential to a writer’s work. Our books, which are our principal vehicles of expression, can reach people through impersonal mechanisms.
Public spectacles are a sideshow.”
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