Most writers are considered eccentric beings because of their decisions concerning life. Most writers loathe visibility outside writing. They do not want to be known outside their books, keep a Pluto privacy to themselves. There’s Thom Gunn, who had a “strong dislike” for “literary gatherings.” There’s Kenneth Cox, who reveled in the death of his literary enemies, and “sought and achieved almost complete invisibility outside of his writings.”
There was British Poet and Musician, Roy Fisher, educated at Birmingham University. Like other loners, Roy Fisher carried on like an Island of one, agoraphobic and a hermit who enjoyed his solitary. Lorine Niedecker quarantined herself on an actual island and accessed the world, when she needed to, by post. Christopher Middleton was “incapable of schmoozing, and his career suffered accordingly.” Basil Bunting “liked to live by his wits outside the prescriptions of any institution.
These fortified egos have had enough dust on their face in present days. These antisocial traits of poets and novelists have expired. The aloof rebel is nothing more than an affectation, we tell ourselves, a pair of Ray-Bans you slip on. When Bob Dylan was slow to acknowledge his Nobel Prize for Literature, many were scandalized. “It’s impolite and arrogant,” huffed a member of the Swedish Academy.
In recent years, thoughtful poet-critics like Stewart Cole have made an eloquent case for the distinction between community and scene, and the desirability of the former over the latter. Jess Taylor has also reflected at great length on the subject. (Her ultimate conclusion: “We must keep building in order for our community to be sustained, and for it to grow and thrive.”) Tatiana Morand has critiqued her own shyness and pledged to make an effort to make CanLit “a more welcoming community.”
The romantic mythic of loneliness is completely lost. But while no one is truly isolated, writers have become more entangled than ever. Workshops, readings, book launches, conferences, artists’ colonies, and other glorified mixers increasingly press literary types upon one another. Creative writing instructors urge their charges to get out there and network. Social media ensures we’re always connected.