The Implied Author Part VII: Live White Male: Meeting the Fiction Class
After it was all over, the instructor told me how excited his class had been to have actually met a live author. I said half-right wasn’t bad. We laughed. But which half did I mean?
His invitation was one of those pinch-yourself moments. Here was a university professor who had put my book on his introductory fiction course. A couple of people had sweetly or jokingly (or both?) mentioned the future possibility, but here was someone who had gone right ahead and taken the chance, this September, with a brand new novel. I mentioned casually to my department chair that I had to be out of town one Friday to talk to a class that was studying my book. She made all the right supportive noises (she always does), teased about becoming practically canonical. It felt pretty good to be a living author.
What I hadn’t thought about was that being studied in a university fiction course necessarily entails having papers assigned about your work. In the abstract, that sounds like another nice trip for the ego. Then the blood begins to freeze. Can the book generate a viable series of essay topics? Will its structure bear that kind of scrutiny? Could it be awkward if the paper topics are miles from my intentions for the book? Will the students hate me when they meet me because they had to write about my book? Luckily, the instructor set a series of close-reading character-based studies, and when he sent me copies of the assignment I thought I could see how each topic might be approached. Even I could probably write the papers; and it was reassuring to see my characters being treated like real fictional characters in real fictional books. Besides, by the time I was to meet the students, their assignments would have been completed and returned, and whatever resentments they might have felt towards me would be well on the way to being channeled towards Mary Shelley.
The day I visited, the class was well into its consideration of Frankenstein. I felt bound, when I walked through the door, to apologize for not being its author. Not that I wanted to be dead, or another gender. Well, maybe a little just at that moment.
Courtesy of Cormorant Books. Read the rest of Mark Blagrave's The Implied Author, Part VII at the Cormorant Books blog.