April 3rd 2015
Authors are a strange bunch. (I will count myself among those, just so it doesn't seem like I'm pointing the finger.) I was reminded of this when I started watching interviews with Donna Tartt author of The Goldfinch. Tarrt stands a mere five foot, looking oddly masculine in her suit and tie, but like a creature that has been brought out from the dark and dazzled by the light. A self-described hard drinker, she is rarely seen except for the odd book tour - and they are odd because she doesn't publish that often. Of course, the tradition of authors and reclusiveness stretches far and wide - all those hours spent daily by oneself has a way of turning authors in on themselves.
Among these is of course JD Salinger, who famously locked himself away in his New Hampshire hideaway, turning a gun on intruders, admitting only lonely young female reporters (well, one, to be precise - but she stayed for a while.) Proust was another. He slept during the day and wrote at night and people described him as looking like he lived under a rock. Tiny Emily Dickinson never left her house in two decades, speaking to visitors through the door if she had to at all. Faulkner, Harper Lee. Why are the bulk of these American, the nationality that prides itself on its sociability? One that actually defines itself that way? I suppose it has to do with the pressure to be social.
That would make of me something of a recluse, too, because there is nothing that makes me recoil faster than an invitation to stand around making conversation. Hell for me might be an eternal cocktail party. It's partially why I don't do well in cities, in those tight-packed spaces of humanity. On several occasions while I was in New York, I was forced into a subway carriage that couldn't hold another being, not even a mouse, squeezed in there like a sardine in a can, pushed in from every angle by a burden of humanity.
So, back to the recluse - It's Newton's third law: because there exists these tight bundles of humanity, there must be by necessity stragglers on the outside, those little women hiding away in houses. I'm not sure about the hard drinking part - that may just be a cultural proclivity. I don't drink. My vices are few, except for a neurosis about public bathrooms (same reclusive disease, I think) and a need to adopt every stray animal I come across (kept in check, because I only have four animals, as it turns out.)
Anyway, it keeps the literature flowing. An oft repeated axiom in my country is that still waters run deep. Stillness isn't much valued in American society. Neither therefore are still people. So that must be why the country has its fair share of reclusive writers. Pulling out altogether is sometimes the only way of preserving the still point.