Even though I tend to grind my teeth at the mention of literary theorists, I secretly enjoy everything about them; their mulish stubborness to engage with reality; their longwinded unreadable essays employing words that have been out of vogue for centuries; their amusing, unpronounceable names, (my highschool English teacher used to sing ‘Fish, Fish, jump into my dish’ whenever we were discussing Stanley Fish’s reader-response theory). And my favourite litty guy is good old morbid Barthes, who proposed that once an author publishes his/her work, it’s gone, poof, out of their hands and into the public’s sweaty little fists to do with as they will. Hence: the author is dead. I love this idea so much, but not for reasons Barthes would like. You see, the ‘author god’ as Barthes proposed that authors are, is not dead to me but alive and well. When I read a book, I don’t flip to the back to see the picture of the author. Until I started working in a bookstore where memorisation of titles, cover colours, vague descriptions and author names is a useful, nay, mandatory skill, I often didn’t even pay attention to the names of those hallowed ones who wrote my reading material.

  My problem is this: I can love a book. Take, for example, A Million Little Pieces, the ‘autobiography’ of James Frey, and have such a complete picture in my mind of who and what the author is that when I actually meet said author, and my visions are skewed by reality, it sends me into an existential crisis which ends up with me not liking the book so much anymore.

  But I have taken heart! Chris Cleave, author of ‘The Other Hand’ was so wonderfully nice, and such a talented and subtle authorial voice, that when I met him it just drove me to want to read his backlist, and one of my co-workers to consider polygamy.

  And there is one author who I would give a lot to meet. I wouldn’t speak to him – it would take much more courage and ego than I have to do so – but would bow at his feet, and simply bask. Oh, author god Gabriel Garcia Marquez, don’t ever die.

(check out the new biography on Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gerald Martin, beautiful photos and all- http://www.bloomsbury.com/books/details.aspx?isbn=9780747594765 )


The Wordgardener