J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee kinda sorta popularized the idea of being a recluse. I mean, yeah, the idea of being a recluse already had its own glorious history. (Emily Dickenson is a popular example that comes to mind.) But for the pre-postmodern era (that is, before the Dave Chapelles of the world), J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee kinda sorta take home the reclusive cake.
After publishing The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, both J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee, by all accounts (or lack thereof), chose to disappear from public life. They chose to reject the fame garnered from their novels.
That choice, of course, was their choice. But it’s a choice that we tend to respect, if not glorify. For whatever reason.
Maybe it’s because neither J.D. Salinger nor Harper Lee had to deal with social media. They didn’t have to post about their mundane, everyday activities, detailing their “best life” as famous writers, as people who had hit the literary lottery.
Or maybe it’s because of the mystique of reclusive writers. That, by being reclusive, we can ascribe to them greater knowledge than the popular writers who post YouTube videos and write blogs and tweet things.
Or maybe it’s because J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee could chill and write, for the sake of writing. They could carefully exist, on their own accord, in their own privacy. Worrying about bigger and better things. Not likes or shares or comments.
No matter the reason(s) though, I highlight J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee not so much for the merits of being a recluse, but for the option of being a recluse, which they both exercised.
In the modern era, popular people must be accessible. They must be relatable and reachable and amenable to all that PR stuff. Which, of course, could be for a good reason. Modern day recluses might be more like Peter Van Houten of The Fault in Our Stars—not J.D. Salinger or Harper Lee.
Either way, I still think it’s important to point out that being accessible is difficult for a lot of writers.
I mean, after all, writing is a somewhat reclusive profession. So it can be a lot of work for naturally reclusive people (aka, introverts) to become accessible. Especially given that it’s in the nature of a reclusive person to shun all that happy, smiley PR stuff.
But therein lies the rub.
For obscure, reclusive writers, like me, who have avoided broadcasting or branding themselves (for the most part) on the internet, becoming popular and accessible and all that stuff isn’t really an option. It’s a requirement.
Like, even if I had the choice to reject the (totally nonexistent) attention coming my way, out of principle, for personal reasons, I couldn’t. It’d be professional suicide. Self-destruction.
So that brings me to the point of this blog post (my first blog post!): I will no longer be some obscure, reclusive writer. I will engage the PR machine and formulate some type of brand—some type of personality—to the public at large.
Even if doing so, as of right now, kinda sorta feels like screaming into a void. A void wearing noise-canceling headphones.