There'a a boundary line: on one side are those who make books, on the other those who read them, so I take care to always remain on my side of the line. Otherwise, the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least is transformed into something else, which is not what I want. This boundary line is tentative, it tends to get erased: the world of those who deal with books professionally is more and more crowded and tends to become one with the world of readers.
This is a quote from On a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino written in 1979. The person speaking is Ludmilla who is refusing to speak to the publisher of several books that seem to have been misprinted, even though she is invested reading these book. She's very strict!
This quote stuck out to me, especially the part about the tentative boundary line. In 2016, most authors have some kind of online presence. It's very easy to reach out to authors via Twitter or their own websites. It works in the other direction too. The author can get involved in readers' discussion of their own work. Ludmilla would not approve of this at all! What would she makes of this blurring of the lines? And book bloggers? Who else is erasing that line more than we are by writing about authors and their lives daily?
"the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least is transformed into something else"
What is "something else"? Does the unsullied pleasure end?
You don't even have to have a personal, awkward encounter with an author to experience this. Just a quick Google search can taint the unsullied pleasure. How many of us have struggled with the personal or political personalities of a beloved author by looking a little too closely at their lives? Found out that author was racist, homophobic, sexist, or supported a cause we find repellent? And while the ideal is to separate the artist from the art, can you ever go back once you know what you know? It was a lot harder to find out these uncomfortable truths when you had to go to the library and look things up IN A BOOK.
On the other hand, I remember being blown away while researching the life of Mary Shelley when I had to write a paper on her for university (no internet then either!). It enhanced by reading of Frankenstein knowing about her struggles. I guess that counts as "something else."
There are pros and cons to crossing this boundary line.
What do you think? Are you like Ludmilla? Do you wish it was harder to cross that boundary line? Or are you grateful to have the access to authors we have now?