Monday, August 12, 2013

Pseudonyms

You've all heard about J.K. Rowling's outing as Robert Galbraith, the author of the well-reviewed book The Cuckoo's Calling. As Galbraith, the book sold a meager 500 copies or so. Or 1500. I can't recall the exact amount and it doesn't matter. It was only a few copies, relatively. Once the cat was out of the bag (thanks to a leak in her choice of law firm) it's now sold well over half a million copies.

You may have heard that there was an outcry of 'foul!' that Rowling had deceived her readers.

Well, that's crap.

Who cares if a writer (especially one as popular as Rowling) wants to work under a pen name. There are dozens and dozens of semi-anonymous works out there. Does it matter to the reader?

Only because we live more than ever in an age where the general populace feels like they 'know' someone classed as a celebrity. Well, actually even more than that they feel they are 'owed' something by that celebrity because they have supported that author or they were reading her before something got popular. It works this way in all aspects of anything that's creative: music, art, cooking, even politics. (And if you don't believe politics aren't creative like the arts, you haven't been paying attention.) Anyway.

A celebrity owes me anything? No. That's crap.

Maybe their best work but even that's expecting too much.

Yes, it is. You see, art is a process. When art speaks to me it may not speak to you and the reverse is also true. When art fails to speak to a wide audience we don't applaud the effort, which is also bullshit.

Think about that. When someone cooks for you and it's not what you expected or even hoped for are you polite enough to find something nice to say? You should.

And the same holds true for the celebrity. We should find something nice to say instead calling a film a 'failure' or 'flop'. I guarantee you that for every flop there is someone who poured her heart into the work and when no one says anything nice about the work it hurts. Just like when your significant other cooks for you and it wasn't any good.

What happens instead is a piling-on of rotten comments. Out of pure jealousy that the commenters did not or were incapable of creating anything similar, they tear down the creator. It won't usually happen in person as the Internet offers anonymity and distance.

Which is why Rowling chose to write something out of her perceived genre under a nom de plume. Her previous book had been savaged by critics of a lot of different stripes largely because it wasn't another Harry Potter tale. I don't blame her for wanting to stretch out, to exercise different creative muscles and she knew what the reaction would be but she did it anyway. Choosing to write under a pen name is merely a way to insulate herself against the meanness of the way things are now.

The critics who chose to review The Cuckoo's Calling liked it and it didn't sell well. That's the reality of publishing these days.

So I don't blame a celebrity author like Rowling for writing under a pseudonym. In fact I applaud her for daring to do it and I applaud the positive reviews she garnered as Robert Galbraith. As a creator she did what she had to do.

All she owes us it to create something she can be proud of. I suspect she's done that regardless which name she uses.

No comments: