Monday, June 6, 2011

welcome to the dahl-house

Interesting discussions going on at The Lit Pub these days - Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water is not only a work of nigh-unprecedented emotional openness, it's inspiring some pretty revelatory feedback from the people commenting on Molly Gaudry's conversations with Lidia. I joined in on a different conversation about pen names, in response to Ofelia Hunt talking about whether or not her pen name is just a pseudonym or another persona entirely (link is here).

My point, which I accidentally posted twice because I'm an idiot, was that names strike a really peculiar chord with people. Using a false name can make them feel tricked, having a "writerly name" (especially if it's a first-middle/middle initial-last name combo) encourages them to take you seriously, and having a non-writerly name (like Dave K., for instance) apparently tells the world that you need to change your name to something writerly, and that they should convince you of this. That's what my experience has been, anyway. And I know people mean well, but (paraphrasing from the TLP discussion here) do I really have to bend my own goddamned name to the whims of marketability instead of just going by what’s comfortable for me? That's a level of opportunism that even I'm wary of, which is saying a lot.

On a different topic, it seems as though Roald Dahl was something of a Jew-hating, racist lunatic. People never react well to the personal failings of children's authors, but my generation seems particularly unwilling to accept Dahl's lesser qualities, to judge by the comments. Frankly, I'm not surprised - Dahl clearly had a screw loose, which is what made his writing so much fun. That and, according to the article, careful editing.

But seriously, have you read Boy? Dahl spent his formative years getting the shit caned out of him by sadistic weirdos in boarding school. Between that and the abysmal social attitudes of the 1920s, it's a wonder he turned out as well as he did. Fact is, deeply screwed up people often produce great art, sometimes for audiences completely at odds with their personalities. That's one of the frustrating and wonderful things about art, ya know? I shake my head at what an awful person he was, yes, but I don't see the point in getting too upset about it otherwise since he's been dead for years now.

All right, enough chatter. Back to work.