I attended a showcase of student films a few weeks ago. While there, I was told about an ex- colleague, Fred, who had published an e-book of stories. This, I was assured, was a vanity project. I took this to mean that Fred wouldn’t have achieved publication in the traditional way and so was flattering himself by casting his bread upon the electronic waters.
So let’s concede that vanity may have been a factor. But the critic who had put him in this box had no doubt checked himself in the mirror before leaving the house. He was certainly impressed by his own opinions on this and other subjects. Quite possibly he felt a sense of superiority, not having fallen so low himself. But we could surely have said to him, ‘Okay, O critical one, take your point about Fred, but what have you done to write home about?’
I would defend Fred by saying that he had written his stories, writing is a form of communication, and he was being entirely logical in making them available. I would also point out to the critic that traditional publication does not mean that an author is devoid of vanity. There are too many examples to the contrary. There are even authors who believe that publication is a route to immortality – a hypothesis they won’t be around to test.
Where I live poets were (and are) referred to as makars – people who made things. So what do you do if you make something? You put in on display. This is thought to be natural with paintings, ceramics and large-knot macramé. It is equally natural with objects fashioned from words.
We can’t inspect the motive, we can check the result.