His Name Shall Be Called….
My last blog post has raised in my mind the perennial question of inhowfar an author can and should be separated from his or her works. Was I right to remove the link to the Cluetrain Manifesto simply because of some childish behaviour by the author?
This set me thinking about the authors I enjoy reading, but with whom I probably would not like an evening in a pub. I suppose Philip Larkin would be close to the top of the list keeping company with Kingsley Amis, C.P.Snow, and Anthony Burgess. Remember that I’ve never met any of these people: I’m just going by what I’ve read by and about them so I suppose I must reluctantly add Paul Erdős and G.H. Hardy to the list.
I then turned to the other, perhaps more important, list: those authors with whom an evening in a pub would be a delight. This list would include the person who wrote Shakespeare’s sonnets (if you think that that is the same person as the one who wrote the plays, then you’re deluded), Kit Marlowe (unless I’ve already covered him with the previous author), John Julius Norwich, Donald Knuth, Littlewood and Alfred North Whitehead. Again, remember that I’ve never met any of these people—I’m just going by their works and biographies. That makes six evenings of drinking out; I think I would need the Sunday to relax.
I’ve recently been listening again to the CDs of Alan Bennett reading his “Telling Tales” (he’s certainly one of the most powerful writers in the English language today but whether he would be good pub company is perhaps debatable). One of his readings is entitled “Proper Names” and it comments on the changing fashion in names and how, in a few years, the geriatric homes will be receiving their first Kevins and Traceys. In my list above, I referred to “Littlewood”, “G.H. Hardy” and “Alfred North Whitehead”. Not to “John Littlewood”, “Godfrey Hardy” and “A. N. Whitehead”. It’s strange how not only names, but the format of names, sticks with different people.