it’s not polite to talk about yourself, but . . .

I’ve spent 9 posts trying to explain why I believe that astrology is a valid field of knowledge and study and not a pseudoscience or superstition. The topic is important in itself, but in the context of this blog and my project, The Age of Pisces, it is especially significant. Why this title in particular for what may well prove to be my life’s work?

In general, I don’t think it’s an especially good idea for artists to talk about their work, certainly not in the sense of trying to explain it. For one thing, the artist may not be particularly articulate about that aspect of his work, and wind up doing more harm than good to his artistic mission by talking about it. But for another, there is a strong case to be made that the artist is not necessarily in any privileged position to understand his own work. I remember reading Northrop Frye on this point, or anyway on one that I think is closely related. He was talking about the idea of seeing a production of Hamlet directed by William Shakespeare: would that not be the definitive interpretation of the play? According to Frye, no, it would not. He says that a Shakespeare production of Hamlet would be of special interest, but not of special authority.

And just by the by: this relates to my own belief that it is generally a bad idea for a writer to direct his own play or movie. For not only do the tasks of writing and directing require quite different talents and skills, which never exist in equal prominence in any one person, but the writer, when it comes to seeing meanings in what he has created, is only one pair of eyes among many. He may be an authority on his own intentions, but as for what finally wound up residing in the dark thicket of his created work, very likely other, more detached and objective observers are in a better position to say.

However, in the Wild West that the world of writing and publishing has become since the advent of the e-book, the writer is now often his own publisher as well as his own publicity agent, and it falls to him, and him alone, to try to promote his work to a public deluged by other promotions of other works. Thomas Pynchon launched his career in a time when a writer could still afford to have a mystique, when there were enough other people publishing and promoting his work that he could hide himself. He did no book tours, book signings, or interviews. Heck, there was no photo of Thomas Pynchon (I was shocked to find that Wikipedia does have a photo of him after all; someone must have dug one up somewhere). His reclusiveness gave him mystique, but it did not provide much in the way of promotional copy for his work.

The modern author, for better or for worse, has to beat his own drum. Willy nilly he has to talk about it and about himself in such a way as to draw interest. There are problems with this, because self-promotion tends to be inherently cheesy. It’s one thing for a third party to extol one’s work with praise such as, “This is way better than the Bible!” But if an author says these same things about his own work, his words will be accepted only at a steep discount. Nay, he will make himself like unto a laughing stock.

So there’s the predicament. An author, who nowadays needs a blog, needs to have a way of talking about his work without really talking about it. For there is the danger not only of plot spoilers, but much more of what might be called thematic spoilers: talking about meanings that are seeded into a work, but that are best unearthed by the reader as personal discoveries. Such discoveries are among the greatest pleasures of reading, in my opinion, and I want no part of spoiling them for anyone.

On the other hand, there is a great deal to say about The Age of Pisces that I will never be able to say in the books themselves. The topic is vast, and, I think, both fascinating and important. So why not just enjoy the luxury of having my own channel of discussion? Maybe many thematic spoilers will indeed fall on the ground along the way. But, just as in the fiction itself, it may not be so obvious what they are.

I would never state what I think the “meaning” of The Age of Pisces (my literary work, that is) is, even if were clear myself on what that were. But there are a great many things associated with it that are worth talking about, so that is what I will do. And as for the connections between these musings and the fictional work, I will leave those to the reader.

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