Monday, April 15, 2013

A Double Life

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked but really being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”
                ---- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

I lead a double life.

This may not seem surprising. After all, what writer doesn’t? Except for those fortunate few who can afford to make writing their careers, we all have to put down our pens (or shut our laptops) and get on with the normal business of working, parenting, or school.

For me, though, even my writing has fractured. Online, most of you know me as part of the YA literature scene. I write YA, blog about YA, and write reviews of YA novels. However, in “real” life, most people know me as the straight-A student who loves reading Shakespeare or Milton in her free time and has plans to do her PhD and be a professor. Those people are shocked that someone who reads The Wasteland for fun, or who can recite Yeats from memory would also have a shelf full of YA novels.

People normally see “high brow” and “low brow” literature as completely separate. They don’t think that Joyce’s Ulysses and Twilight could have anything in common.


Did I just suggest that one of the greatest novels in the English language is somehow similar to a teen vampire story?

Yes. Yes I did. While there are many differences between the two, they are, fundamentally, about what it means to be human. Leopold Bloom wanders aimlessly around Dublin, and Bella Swan falls in love with a sparkling vampire, but both are ordinary humans seeking fulfillment. Well-written or not, “teen trash” or highly literary, entertaining or tedious, these stories tell us something about the human condition.

For me, that’s the point of any and all literature. To reach out to other humans, to overcome, as Joseph Conrad would say, “the loneliness of innumerable hearts,” and to truly communicate with someone else.

That is why I can’t find any disconnect between my scholarly studies and my YA writing. Because whether I’m reading The Hunger Games or Beowulf, Paranormalcy or Pride and Prejudice, J. K. Rowling or Virginia Woolf, I’m still reading about fundamental human issues. The need to be loved. To have faith. To belong.

The style may be different. Yes, some styles may even be “better” (but that’s a completely different argument). But, at the core, they are the same.

That is why I can be both 100% YA author and 100% academic. Because I am also 100% a writer. 

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