The Dim-Post

October 5, 2016

Story of the found author

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:12 am

The New York Review of Books has (probably) revealed the identity of Elena Ferrante. Vox has an overview here. (I’ve only read the first of her Neopolitan books and enjoyed it less than seemingly everyone else who’s read them, but I liked this essay by Giovanni Tiso about her work.)  I can think of three contemporary anonymous famous people – Ferrante, Satoshi Nakamoto and Banksy, and Nakamoto seems to be the only one we still don’t really know about, despite several attempted investigative exposes. Are there others? This column makes a strong case for the obligations of journalists to reveal the identity of very famous and influential anonymous individuals.

There’s this big debate among literary elites about the intersection of fiction and identity politics – what do novelists have the right to write about, can they write outside their own lived experience and privilege, etc, and Ferrante is – or at least was much celebrated as a feminist author writing about poverty so its interesting to learn that’s she’s also guilty of the the alleged crimes of appropriation and ‘writing outside her own experience’.

18 Comments »

  1. The unspoken assumption of identity politics is that economic class isn’t an identity, or at least, not as strong an identity as gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

    Also, re: the four anonymous people in the world – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Unidentified_people

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — October 5, 2016 @ 9:50 am

  2. Big thing about Satoshi Nakamoto and the Australian Craig Wright in the London Review of Books earlier this year. I think it’s pretty well established.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n13/andrew-ohagan/the-satoshi-affair

    Comment by Dr Foster — October 5, 2016 @ 10:25 am

  3. …guilty of the the alleged crimes of appropriation and ‘writing outside her own experience’.

    If the writing does not purport to be fact but fiction instead this is a childish complaint.

    Comment by Fentex — October 5, 2016 @ 10:37 am

  4. Reading that lrb article I had the feeling I was reading one of Pynchon’s lesser works.

    Comment by NeilM — October 5, 2016 @ 10:38 am

  5. I’m waiting for the savage attack on you for writing that chapter from the dog’s perspective in Mysterious Mysteries. That’s got to be the worst from of cultural appropriation – putting words in the mouth of innocent animals who can’t speak for themselves! Man, you’re in trouble now…

    Comment by Nick R — October 5, 2016 @ 11:00 am

  6. If it was Pynchon it would have at least one musical number.

    Im rereading Against the Day again at the moment, by the way – any other fans here?

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — October 5, 2016 @ 11:01 am

  7. A – I’ve only read Mason and Dixon which I enjoyed tremendously.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 5, 2016 @ 11:08 am

  8. Im rereading Against the Day again at the moment, by the way – any other fans here?

    I’ve never finished a Pynchon novel that wasn’t Crying of Lot 49

    Comment by danylmc — October 5, 2016 @ 11:08 am

  9. @Gregor – I heart Mason and Dixon
    @Danyl – Try AtD? Perhaps you already have. Even if you don’t finish it, it is still life expanding. (And a profoundly left wing manifesto btw)

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — October 5, 2016 @ 11:16 am

  10. I loved Inherent Vice,

    Comment by Nick R — October 5, 2016 @ 12:58 pm

  11. I loved Inherent Vice

    Oh yeah, Inherent Vice. Okay, that’s two Pynchon novels.

    Comment by danylmc — October 5, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

  12. I’ve actually read fairly few books by people writing within their experience, and they’ve nearly all been bloody dull. The intersection of people who can write and people to whom interesting things have happened must be quite small.

    Mind you, that’s identity politics. How can you read an interesting book when children are starving in Africa, etc?

    Comment by Rich d'Rich — October 5, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

  13. Mind you, that’s identity politics. How can you read an interesting book when children are starving in Africa, etc?

    Well, it all depends on how “authentic” the voice of said starving African kid really is….

    Comment by Gregor W — October 5, 2016 @ 5:51 pm

  14. BTW How’s Infinite Jest going? Have reached page 280. Dunno what’s going on, but strangely addictive

    Comment by Leopold — October 5, 2016 @ 9:03 pm

  15. Hamilton Nolan (whoever that is – hopefully the New York Review of Books will tell us) claims that “the very general proposition of journalism is this: The public has a right to know true things that are important to the public. It is the job of journalists to supply the public with these true things.”

    I’d say it’s the job of journalists to tell the public true things that it is in the public interest to know – and therefore media organisations do not merely have to report the truth, but also judge carefully what sort of true information the public ought to know about.

    Often it seems to me they get it wrong. It is really questionable, in my view, whether it is truly in the public interest to know that a professional sportsman had a sexual liaison with an unknown woman in an airport toilet. The public may well *want* to know about this – I confess to a bit of prurient curiosity myself even if I don’t know said professional sportsman from a bar of soap – but it’s at least questionable whether the people of New Zealand are better-informed or more virtuous on account of knowing about this thing.

    Likewise back in the 1980s when Peter Tatchell went around ‘outing’ gay vicars and bishops, I thought it was pretty hard to justify the pain and distress this caused on the basis that the men so-identified were ‘public figures’. Is the leaking of sexually-explicit photographs of celebrities justified, one wonders, simply because they are famous?

    In the case of Eleanor Ferrante it’s not really clear to me that there’s a public interest here that outweighs the violation of her privacy. And of course if Ferrante ceases to publish books now, as some are predicting, then you can argue that actually the reading public has been harmed by her public ‘outing’.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — October 6, 2016 @ 3:21 pm

  16. Often it seems to me they get it wrong

    I think they get it wrong a lot too. But it isn’t up to me to decide what journalists are and aren’t allowed to write about, based on my own gut instincts. The freedom of the press to decide for themselves is way, way more important than a very famous person’s right to anonymity.

    Comment by danylmc — October 6, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

  17. I’d say it’s the job of journalists to tell the public true things that it is in the public interest to know – and therefore media organisations do not merely have to report the truth, but also judge carefully what sort of true information the public ought to know about.

    “Sagaydak had a particularly fine grasp of such matters. He had worked on a newspaper for a long time; first he had been responsible for the news pages, then for the agricultural section. After that he had worked for about two years as editor of one of the Kiev papers. He considered that the aim of his newspaper was to educate the reader – not indiscriminately to disseminate chaotic information about all kinds of probably fortuitous events.

    In his role as editor, Sagaydak might consider it appropriate to pass over some event: a very bad harvest, an ideologically inconsistent poem, a formalist painting, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, an earthquake, or the destruction of a battleship. He might prefer to close his eyes to a terrible fire in a mine or a tidal wave that had swept thousands of people off the face of the earth. In his view these events had no meaning and he saw no reason why he should bring them to the notice of readers, journalists and writers. Sometimes he would have to give his own explanation of an event; this was often boldly original and entirely contradictory to ordinary ways of thought.

    He himself felt that his power, his skill and experience as an editor were revealed by his ability to bring to the consciousness of his readers only those ideas that were necessary and of true educational benefit.”

    – Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

    Comment by Gregor W — October 6, 2016 @ 4:24 pm

  18. The press must have freedom, but we are entitled to opine that they are pricks when they use it to ‘out’ people – just as when they publish spoilers for movies, books or tv shows…

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — October 7, 2016 @ 8:01 am


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