Friday, August 30, 2013

Back Off Man, I'm An Artist

Next week a documentary on J.D. Salinger opens.  I'll check it out, though I read a biography not too long ago so I'm not sure how much new stuff it will have.  In the trailer it's noted Salinger stopped publishing in the 60s, but continued writing until his death a few years back.  It would appear he wasn't interested in having this stuff come out--not while he was alive, anyway. (He was a queer duck who said it was nice to write not for publication, sued to stop an anauthorized underground collection of otherwise uncollected stories, and asked friends to burn their correspondence rather than let it fall into the wrong hands.)  Though, apparently, there will be a series of posthumous releases anyway.

It's ironic. The vast majority of writers struggle to be noticed, but here's a guy at the top who fought to prevent his work from being seen. He's not the only one. I'm reading a biography of my favorite 20th century author, Kafka (who wasn't particularly famous during his life).  He left explicit directions to his friend Max Brod to burn unread all his writings, including his letters. Brod ignored him and published (often in fragmented form) the stuff that made Kafka the name he is today.

It's an interesting question.  Who "owns" the writer's material?  One would think the writer, but what good does it do him dead. If he's of any worth, shouldn't it be out there for the public to read?  Most writers want their work to live on, and most will be forgotten anyway.

Those decades of work Salinger (presumably) did may or may not see the light of day.  Considering how precious and meandering his later material was, especially his last piece, Hapworth 16, 1924, it's possible this is no great loss. Still, it'd be intereting to see for ourselves.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life is for the living, not the dead.

- a paraphrase of some French guy who participated in The Terror that I heard in my audiobook this morning (Thomas Jefferson, the Art of Power by Jon Meacham)

2:07 PM, August 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but the trouble is the living make demands about what should happen after they die. Should we respect them? We generally do when it comes to something like a will. But what if it seems to be against the interests of others?

Maybe that's an excuse, but if we start ignoring what the dead have requested, the living will notice and might start taking measures we don't like while they're alive. At the very least the living will start feeling bad about how their wishes won't be respected.

2:15 PM, August 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should those wishes be respected when no others are?

Good luck opening an insurance company, bank or medical office.

2:29 PM, August 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a good idea. Sell people life insurance, and after they die, refuse to pay out because they're dead anyway so what do they care.

2:41 PM, August 30, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting the business model right is always the first thing.

As P.J. O'R says, when buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

3:13 AM, August 31, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A will or life insurance is not primarily about respecting the wishes of the dead but more about a rational system for distributing property to the living.

I like that the first quote above was from a guy who made a lot of living people dead so he did not have to respect their wishes

6:17 AM, August 31, 2013  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Will's are mostly about respecting the wishes of the dead. We do have some guidance from the state as to where the money should go, especially if you die intestate, but by and large the whole thing is about handing it out along the lines of the deceased, even if it displeases the living.

11:29 AM, August 31, 2013  

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