One of the few things I dislike about living in the 21st century is that most of my favorite authors are dead. I can dig up their letters and autobiographies, but I sometimes want to know them more intimately. And there’s only a limited amount of material with which I can get to know these writers. Because they’re long past, they’ll always be a mystery. (Unless I get a TARDIS; then all bets are off.)
But there are five authors in particular I wish could have lived in this era and thus had more of a chance to get to know.
1) George Eliot
I’ll actually admit right now that I’m not the biggest fan of Eliot’s. I tried to read one of her novels once, became thoroughly bored within the first few pages, and never went back. But my father swears by Adam Bede and Silas Marner, and since he generally has good taste in literature, I’m sure there’s probably some merit or other to her fiction, even if I can’t see it.
But this essay of hers is enough to convince me that Eliot would have been one of the most entertaining bloggers to hit the Internet, had she been alive during the right era.
For those who don’t have time to read the essay (which admittedly is rather long), “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” is one of the most vicious snarks on popular and insubstantial fiction that I’ve ever read. Check out these excerpts from her essay:
On the heroines of bad novels- “We have often met with women much more novel and profound in their observations than Laura Gay, but rarely with any so inopportunely long-winded.”
On the writers- “It is clear that they write in elegant boudoirs, with violet-coloured silk and a ruby pen; that they must be entirely indifferent to publishers accounts and inexperienced in every form of poverty except poverty of brains.”
I can only imagine what Eliot would have had to say about authors like Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephenie Meyer, or Terry Goodkind. It wouldn’t have been pretty, but I would have read the hell out of it, and it makes me sad she’s not around to do it.
2) Mark Twain
I feel like Mark Twain’s blog would be a hotbed of controversy and argument. He’d update often and he wouldn’t be shy at all about stating his opinions on everything, whether it was politics, fans, fellow writers, religion, sex, all of which would cause huge uproar. Vocal people on either side of the issue would weigh in. There would be much discussion and everything from earnest debate to open insults. Judging from his verbal flaying of Fenimore Cooper, he would have been the kind of person who reveled in the internet and its capacity to fall into total insanity in the span of a millisecond. Given that Twain himself had many distinctive and controversial views of his own on topics ranging from emancipation to religion, his personal blog would cover everything under the sun, spawning a thousand arguments along the way. His writing would be equally distinctive, though less overtly personal, and he would probably get nominated for several awards and become renowned for controversial acceptance speeches.
3) Jane Austen
Austen’s blog would be a blast to read, and I would eagerly be checking for updates pretty much every time I had access to a computer. She would attend various literary conventions and do gently mocking write-ups of those who had attended. I think she probably would have greatly enjoyed (and probably worked on) stories and scripts with similar qualities to Enchanted and The Princess Bride. Austen also would have made a huge name for herself by writing either a full-on satire of the prevalence of vampire romance or writing one that explored all of the actual nightmarish implications those series tend to forget. She’d probably write a few short novels on how women nearly lose their true chances for romantic happiness by expecting a superhero to come and sweep them off their feet, but have things work out in the end. All her parodies would have a certain level of amusement, if not affection.
On the side of blogging and fiction, she’d probably have a column that slanted toward humor with satirical slants. She would be the kind of person who gets reblogged, re-tweeted, and generally sent along to other folks. I have a feeling Austen would have found social media amusing and somewhat ridiculous, though she would know full well how to make use of it. Overall she would have a good time on the Internet, but it wouldn’t dominate her life. And she would love her work immensely.
This is sort of cheating, as I don’t think Tolkien would actually have had much of a blog. He’d post occasional updates on holidays and whatnot, but it wouldn’t be terribly frequent. However, I think his website on his books would be one of the best of any author’s site. Just checking out what fans have been able to do with his material is enough to convince that had Tolkien been around for the internet, he would have arranged for huge lexicons on the languages, histories, and geography of his world, similar to those of the Twilight and Harry Potter lexicons. The difference would be that his would be entirely official. He might add some tips on his site on how to build a good fantasy world and culture, and probably would have done his best to be nice to fans, despite the fact that it would be a bit of a burden.
When I told my dad that I was writing this blog post, his immediate reaction was “Orwell would have been fantastic.” I hadn’t thought about Orwell before that, but my dad was right (as he is more often then I like to admit). Orwell’s extensive world travelling and correspondence on various conditions and conflicts would have made for some of the best blog posts imaginable. When I was in high school, my English class read his “Shooting An Elephant,” and while I remember liking the essay itself, my teacher gave us a quote of his that has stuck with me ever since: “Good prose is like a window pane.”
That small sentence has done more to form the way I write than any writing book, article, or guide. Whenever I write anything, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m trying to make the prose completely clear, so clear that the reader has no choice but to see the images and occurrences I’m trying to present.
Orwell’s blog, I think, would be one of the most useful and enjoyable to read for a writer. He would be honest, present his arguments clearly, and would demonstrate through his articles and stories on the state of the world what that good writing would be. I don’t know that I’d always agree with his views, but I would love reading about them for how well they were presented. His blog would be one of my favorites, if only it were around to follow.