Margaret Atwood on social media, Wattpad, and anonymous authors:

“Well, you don’t have to be in social media. You can turn it off. So for writers I would say don’t go there if you find it uncomfortable, you know. But your publishers will say “Oh, you need to have a Facebook page,” you need to, now they’re saying an Instagram. I had to get an Instagram because there were two people on Instagram pretending to be me. And the same thing happened with Twitter. There were two people on Twitter pretending to be me, and one of them was tweeting this really mushy, romantic stuff that I would never do. So, I mean, it was offensive. Not because it was vulgar, but because it wasn’t vulgar enough. But this world is not for everyone, and I know a lot of writers who just don’t do it at all. Although they may still be having their lives ruined by email, they don’t do the social media stuff.

However, your real question is, What about young people? What about kids whose parents have ill-advisedly let them have smartphones at too early an age? I would have really strongly advised against that because the Internet is not the real world. It’s out of the matrix. Some of the people on it are real people, but other people are not, and other people are pretending to be people that they aren’t. And it can be quite dangerous in that way, especially at the point in which the Internet intersects with the real world and some child predator wants to set up a meeting. So you can, parents, get a thing that allows you to oversee what your kids are viewing and receiving on these platforms.

I’ll say a positive thing. Ready for this? Brace yourself. There is a platform called Wattpad, and that’s a user-generated, story-sharing site they try to keep pretty positive, like, free of trolls and abuse. And it’s used quite a lot by young writers, and the beauty of it is, when you were in high school, it used to be the only thing you were asked to write was [“My Summer Vacation,’] and students did not exert the best of their talents on such subjects. But had they written the steamy vampire story they really wanted to write, their peer group, their parents, and their teachers would have known it was them. That’s why they didn’t do it. But they’re doing it now, and they’re doing it on Wattpad under a pseudonym, and we know, because you get comments back from your readers, we know that once such a person knows they have an audience, they up their writing game. So that’s pretty positive, don’t you think?”

-Margaret Atwood


[On Fake stories, Fake Authors, Fake Presses for the Fake Industry:]

‘“I’ve always had a severe distaste for all the mindless biographical drivel that serves to prop up this or that writer,” Pearson admits in an interview in a publication called Cow Eye Express, part of the auxiliary Web material associated with the novel. “So much effort goes into credentialing the creator that we lose sight of the creation itself, with the consequence being that we tend to read authors instead of their works. In fact, we’d probably prefer to read a crap book by well-known writer than a great book by a writer who may happen to be obscure,” the unknown writer asserts.


Hmm. Somewhere I have heard of an author as reclusive as J.D. Salinger (who has no further need to defend his privacy). No, not the Italian Elena Ferrante (also a pseudonymous invention), but an American. Rather than face what he (assuming the gender itself is not fictional) calls “a false and destructive system” that is nonetheless “a reality of our world,” Pearson notes that his response is to “manufacture disposable authorial personae for every book,” making each one earn its own way rather than piggybacking on whatever reputation a previous title may have earned its author.

That sounds like an honorable approach, as Pearson’s interviewer notes. Will it work? “Probably not,” Pearson concedes. “The reading public, and especially professional reviewers, tend to be pretty dismissive of new authors.” He allows that “skeptical” or “indifferent” might be a better characterization than “dismissive,” for unknowns lack the benefit of the doubt reflexively ceded to well-known authors. While Pearson recognizes that he may be consigned to “an utterly disjointed and fruitless literary career” as a result, there is an upside: He will not be forced to participate in a “dishonest system that I don’t believe in.”

Terrific, this seems promising enough to look into! We have an unknown author published by an unknown press with a huge chip on his shoulder about the state of our literary culture. What could be more interesting—albeit common—than that? But wait a minute, this is metafiction, fiction layered atop the fiction to orient our view of Cow Country itself. The interview is a fabricated story in a fabricated publication. Could someone be dropping clues like a row of bread crumbs, designed to stir in readers the thought that Pearson’s views are remarkably in line with those popularly believed to be held by a certain chimerical, widely known but seldom glimpsed author?

It is hard not to see some validity in Pearson’s assertions about unknown writers facing an uphill battle, given the silence that has so far greeted Cow Country. Certainly its publishing route is a factor as well, for widely recognized houses and imprints and independents such as Knopf, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Norton, and Graywolf, and a handful of others, do have an advantage when it comes to gaining the attention of reviewers and review-section editors.

To return, finally, to the question of the book’s sensibility and Pearson and Pynchon, my highly subjective but very strong impression is that the two authors are closer than kissing cousins, they are joined at the hip. The off-kilter sensibility one sees in the work of both would not be, in the words of the college accreditors, easily “replicable” by another, in my opinion. Encountering Cow Country was like going to a thrift shop and finding designer clothing with the labels cut off.

If I am in error, to the person hiding behind Pearson I would say, To be taken for Pynchon is no small compliment but an enormous one, and your mimetic abilities in emulation of his sensibility are admirable. To Pynchon, I would say, Don’t fret, and issue a reminder that imitation is the highest form of flattery, no?’

Read the rest.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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