Alimentada desde el siglo XIX, existe la concepción mítica, romántica, que imagina al escritor, al autor de libros, como un individuo radicalmente solitario, oculto en su estudio, que apenas se asoma por las ventanas, que ignora los días del calendario, que escribe furiosamente como poseído por las musas y la imaginación, entregado únicamente a su obra. Una persona misteriosa a la que conocemos sólo por su escritura y, a veces (cada día con más frecuencia), por la fotografía que aparece en una de las solapas de sus libros. Para algunos escritores es mejor no tener una comunicación directa con los lectores. Lo importante es la obra literaria; el autor es irrelevante.
Pero no todos los lectores, ni todos los escritores, piensan lo mismo. Además de los autores que son presionados por sus casas editoriales para convivir con los lectores en Facebook y Twitter, y así vender más libros, muchos otros autores se resisten a asumir la pose del escritor misterioso (que no es de este mundo) que guarda una profunda distancia con los mortales. Y lo queramos o no, la era digital ha traído nuevas formas de relación entre autor y su cómplice lector; acaso nuevas concepciones de autoría. Salman Rushdie disfruta de Twitter porque “it allows one to be playful, to get a sense of what is on a lot of people’s minds at any given moment”.
No sé si las redes sociales democratizan la literatura, pero creo que sí contribuyen a desmitificar el proceso de la escritura y volverlo más colaborativo. El escritor no solamente escribe, sino que desayuna huevos y lleva a sus hijos al parque. Dice Margaret Atwood: “Every writer is two people (at least). There’s the one that does the writing, and the one that has an egg for breakfast. I’m the other one”.
Anne Trubek escribió para The New York Times el ensayo “Why authors tweet?”, que ahora les comparto:
Since the 19th century, the common conception of “the author” has gone something like this: A young man, in his garret, writes furiously, crumpling up papers and throwing them on the floor, losing track of time, heedless of the public, obsessed with his own imagination. He is aloof, elusive, a man whom you know only by his writing and the portrait in his book.
Writers themselves have sustained this myth, asking readers to keep their distance from authors, who should remain enigmatic. W. B. Yeats remarked that the poet “is never the bundle of accident and incoherence that sits down to breakfast.” T. S. Eliot further argued that “the progress of an artist is . . . a continual extinction of personality”; forget about getting to know the figure behind the words: “Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry.” On his Facebook page, created by his publisher, Jeffrey Eugenides recently expressed similar sentiments. In “A Note From Jeffrey Eugenides to Readers,” he described his joy at meeting them, but concluded by saying he doesn’t know when or if he’ll post on the page again: “It’s better, I think, for readers not to communicate too directly with an author because the author is, strangely enough, beside the point.”
But readers are not heeding Eugenides’s advice, nor are many writers. Why? For one thing, publishers are pushing authors to hobnob with readers on Twitter and Facebook in the hope they will sell more copies. But there’s another reason: Many authors have little use for the pretension of hermetic distance and never accepted a historically specific idea of what it means to be a writer. With the digital age come new conceptions of authorship. And for both authors and readers, these changes may be unexpectedly salutary.
Salman Rushdie told me he enjoys Twitter because “it allows one to be playful, to get a sense of what is on a lot of people’s minds at any given moment.” He has written more than a thousand tweets — “OK: Philistinism (destroying bks bec you don’t care abt bks) is not fascism (destroying bks bec. you DO care). But both destroy books” — and more than 150,000 people follow them.
When they use social media, authors have as many personae to choose from as they do in their other writings. Some strike poses that effectively increase the distance between them and their readers, foiling voyeurs. Gary Shteyngart (4,187 followers), whose first tweet was posted on Dec. 1, is charming yet enigmatic (“grandma always said to me, ‘boytchik, do not start a meth lab.’ but i guess i had to learn the hard way”), and often writes in the voice of his dog (“woof!”). When I asked if he enjoys interacting with readers on Twitter, Shteyngart responded: “There are so many clever people out there. I love each one of them. Many times I laugh with them.” Humor is common and welcome in authorial tweets. One of Twitter’s funniest is Mat Johnson (39,712 followers), who told me he consciously becomes “Mat Johnson, author and humorist,” on Twitter. (“Teenagers hanging out at a playground, laughing to each other at how ironic they’re being. I want that made illegal.”) …