Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pushing boundaries

I went to an author event recently for an author I've seen before. His events are consistently packed; people pay to see him; they wait in long lines to get their books signed. And I've been thinking about his appeal, about what works so well.

He's funny, for one thing, and funny is great for live events. But he's also daring. He pushes things to the point where he risks going too far: honesty about the grosser side of human nature; jokes about some things we take seriously and fear intensely. He's not cruel; there's a generosity in his willingness to shine the spotlight on other authors, and to draw the biggest laughs at his own expense.

But it's that daring I'm thinking about today. That risk-taking, that boundary-pushing. I especially admire it at a live event, where you can hear the audience groan, gasp, or laugh, providing the kind of instant judgment that can be difficult for writers to take. He seems to read a lot of pre-published work, and I wonder if he censors his ultimately-published material based on live audience reactions. Does he ever take out something just because it made the audience obviously uncomfortable or shocked people? Or is he more likely to leave in those parts?

When I start asking those questions, I'm not really wondering about his process as much as about my own. Most writers have to decide how deep they want to dig, how much they want to risk.

6 comments:

  1. I'm very curious about who the author was.

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    1. I debated whether to name him, and decided it didn't matter to the point I was trying to make. And to be more specific, I would want to recount some of his stories, but then I would feel uncomfortable about repeating stories that people are paying to hear (and that he tells better than I could) ... so I decided to leave it here.

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  2. I too am curious to know which author you're referring to!

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  3. Whoever the author was, he sounds like a powerful storyteller. It's true, authors often make conscious decisions about what to include and what to cut from their books.

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    1. Yes, they may be very revealing for some issues and keep other aspects private.

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