This week's question—"If you could inhabit a famous writer’s body/brain for a day, who would it be?"—was such a puzzler that I briefly considered dodging it completely, as our fellow panelist R.J. Harlick did earlier in the week. But ever dutiful to my responsibilities here, I was determined to forge ahead and pick someone—though who?
As with two of our other bloggers, Meredith Cole and Alan Orloff, I was intrigued by the idea of visiting some dark places—and if you haven't read Alan's visit into the mind of Stephen King, you definitely should! But like Meredith, I think I'd ultimately have too many hesitations. A glimpse into Patricia Highsmith's brilliance would be fascinating, but I imagine that would be a pretty bleak mindscape—territory maybe better visited through the stories and novels themselves. The same would be true of someone like Jim Thompson or James Ellroy, and even less noir-ish authors might prove dispiriting, I'm afraid: Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, for example, suffering from layers of melancholy, depression, even dementia ultimately in the latter case.
While writers of the Golden Age—Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.—might offer less tortured visits, I'll admit I didn't find my curiosity drawn as fully in that direction as this week's final blogmate, Tracy Kiely, did. Maybe I am ultimately led toward the dark side, even if reservations would hold me back from going too deeply into it.
I considered opening up the question beyond the confines of crime fiction—where I might jump inside Tolstoy's or Chekhov's perspectives, for example—but suddenly the wider history of literature overwhelmed even more. Too much to choose from, too much to consider, so I reoriented myself to my mystery shelves.
|Dorothy B. Hughes|
This is side-stepping part of the question, I know—since this was about a famous writer's "body/brain," suggesting a full day in the life and maybe specifically the author's own life: waking up in a different body, different time, different place, going about regular routines, interacting with family members, friends, etc. of the chosen author. In these cases, that would obviously involve not only a different gender but also an era of different gender expectations, a different social and political climate (Hughes' work touched on racial tensions as well as gender), and a whole range of other experiences. But perhaps that would be even more of an education—full glimpses of their lives and times.
An informative exercise, no matter what!