I've liked Milan Kundera for awhile, but reading his novel Immortality sealed the deal for me. Now I am a full-blown fan, and think he's a wonderfully brilliant writer -- not just as a craftsman of prose, though that would be enough -- but as a builder of novels that are stunningly well put together.
Since I'm a Kundera groupie, I was glad to see an excerpt from his latest, The Curtain on The Guardian recently. There are many things in this article I could write about (and if I tried to write about all the thought-provoking items in it at once this would be the longest Litkicks post of all time), so I've chosen to focus on a couple of Kundera's points. But I want you to know that even though it's long, the entire excerpt is worth the time to read, especially if you like to think about things like being a writer and the writer's relationship to his/her work.
In the past, I've touched on the issue of a writer's personal relics becoming part of the whole of that person's work, and whether or not that was a bad thing. As a reader, I'm often interested in the lives of writers I admire, and want to read as much about and by them as I can. But as a writer, I find the notion of having people read anything other than the writing I want them to read a little bit -- for lack of a better word -- creepy. While I doubt that I'm ever going to be studied by scholars years after my death, let's just say for the purposes of this paragraph that it could happen. I'm really bothered by the idea that everything outside of my intended body of work might be fair game. Everything. My unfinished drafts unfit for anyone to see, my e-mails, letters, saved birthday cards, journals, notes, my book collection, my CD collection -- all of these things could be dissected by scholars to give a better picture of the writer behind the work. And not only that, but connections could be made between all the stuff I have and the writing I do. Certainly, my writing (such as it is) is a product of my life and experiences, but I'm a big fan of making things up (not a fan of autobiography), and I don't think it's necessary for people to know that I had braces twice to understand where my writing comes from. (Except I just told you. I had braces. Twice. Analyze that.)
This mammoth tale of betrayal and human folly is running at the Public Theater in Greenwich Village, New York right now in a James Lapine production, and you better believe I ran out to get tickets the minute I heard Kevin Kline would be playing the lead. I love King Lear, though I'm not always sure why.