Quo Vadis, Author?

I had a tough week. It was all accounting. All numbers all the time from Tuesday on. My verbal brain went comatose. I’m trying to wake her up now and she’s at least stretching despite the leg cramps for which I think we all should applaud the old girl. But writerly discipline demands that I write. Only what?

I cast my voice upon the waters and my friend the wine critic, Felicity Carter, answered. Why don’t you write about genteel Charleston’s scandalous past, she suggested. Start with that barely plastered over giant phallus on Nina Liu’s Gallery on State Street, the home of a brothel for much of the first half of the 20th century. Then follow up with that story of the brothel owned in the early part of the 19th by the daughter of a cantor of the local synagogue. And I thought, well, geez, those aren’t bad tips.

Nina’s a pillar of Charleston’s art establishment, whose three storey art gallery features an eclectic range of contemporary art works. The way she tells it, it’s always been full of eclectic collections. Like the prostitute who was heard screaming in the middle of the day sometime in the 1940s as a sailor hung her by her hair out the window.

Now admittedly, if you had to be hung by your hair out the window, State Street’s not a bad street to be dangling over. It’s one of Charleston’s most beautiful with courtyard gardens and wrought iron fences galore and two blocks from the ocean to boot. Unfortunately, it’s a tough story to write about, because I never really found out why the sailor was so displeased. And Google as I might, I couldn’t confirm the cantor’s daughter story except in my memory, always a shaky thing.

Despair ensued.

So I decided to do what writers always do –make it up. Ahem. Here goes: The sailor dangled the whore out the window by her hair because he found out she was his long lost mother and was enraged that she’d trashed the family honor.

After I’d finished working out my non-existent history, I felt bad for a minute, thinking I should never fob my readers off with a fake story. Then I opened my PW Daily online and found an article by Laura Miller worth promoting. It’s about authors scamming social media by paying marketers to write false reviews. Apparently, such folk sabotage the honor, the decency of our anti-establishment People’s Internet, rendering the Internet review meaningless. Now, frankly, I thought this had already been accomplished by reviewers who give Jane Eyre one star and Angels and Demons five. My own view on the subject is one I got from bestselling author Lisa Alther, who told me that she never reads reviews because they reflect more about the reviewer than they do the work. But Ms Miller’s final paragraph captivated me. She cites Ewan Morrison in The Guardian:

(His) article is a lengthy and blistering indictment of the idea that authors, whether traditionally or self-published, can use social networking to sell their books. Maybe it worked once, he concedes, when the concept was new — say, two years ago — but by now the Kindle store alone has been flooded with 1.1 million new authors. The chance of making oneself heard over the Web-2.0 din is vanishingly slim, or just vanishing.

Eureka! I thought. If everything goes, including fraud, on the Internet, it doesn’t matter what I write today! I can write made-up history if I have to. What’s important is that I’m writing.

And after the writing comes the second part of my friend’s advice – the glass of wine. Here’s to you.

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