The notion of fame is but the nurture of history that hangs on the thread of a name. Much before man turns fond of his name, the resumes of the greats he is made to cram ram the idea of fame in his subconscious. Just the same, the limitations of life preclude the illusions of fame from sprouting in the minds of the majority. However, it is the gifted few that sense the threshold, and if fate were to play along with their talents to cross the same, then they begin to crave for carving out a niche for themselves in the Hall of Fame. In time, insensibly though, they tend to see their work as but a means to achieve that end. And it is this mind-set, lacking the force of art that takes refuge in the shelter of imitative craft.
And what about the fame these earn with the helping hand of the media? After all, fame is all about the public perception of their alleged attributes and thus amenable for manipulation. Here we might delve into the dynamics of fame in the written world, as the mechanism of it is more or less the same with regards to the world of art. These days, an author’s fame hinges upon the media projection about his persona rather than the contents of his produce. Of course, the current-day publishers appreciate this very well as they resort to ‘no holds barred’ hype to catapult the debutants to the literary hilt. But then, on the flip side of it, after having served the marketing cause, once the coverage ceases, the authors’ fame too gets eclipsed, that is, till the hype for another title resuscitates the same. It is thus, the fame of hype is but candle-long, and for the discerning, it may not be worth the candle.
What of the best selling authors then? Won’t their presence on the best-seller lists for months on guarantee fame? Don’t we all have unread books in our collection? Unopened books do not open the gates of fame to their authors, do they? After all, didn’t Shakespeare opine that reputation is the most idle and false imposition, often got without merit and lost without deserving? Well how does all this affect the famous? In the end, when the curtains are down and with the limelight gone, they might as well be left nursing a frustrated soul. Is all fame false then? Not so, if his work and not the hype earns it for the author. The fame of Shakespeare is all about the profundity of his work that is bound to transcend the millennia to come. Likewise, those who would render Thyagaraja’s kritis into eternity would keep his fame alive forever.
What of the lesser talents then? Don’t they have a right to create? The answer is that the immortality of art lies in its new protagonists? Moreover, human condition in every era calls for its exploration through the novel, of course, underscored by the Tolstoyean dictum that true art, be it good or bad, is manifestly original and not an act of imitation. Thus, if one has something original to present to the world of art, he should do so as best as his talents would enable him to do so. In the process, borrowing from Tolstoy again, he should deem his true reward lies in his work itself and not in the recognition from without. On the other hand, if one’s work is to affect a few, even as manuscript, he should regard the same as a bonus of art. It is another matter that his work might remain that way for to induce an agent, leave alone a publisher, in today’s print world would be more of a Herculean task than climbing the Mount Everest itself. However, having experienced the joy of creating what all he possibly could, the writer should change the gear to pursue his other interests in life without worrying about his failure to be famous.
That is about the philosophy of tranquility for the unappreciated. But what of the literary stage inundated with imitators? Going by the recent exposure of the literary ways of some of the leading publishers and high profile literary agents by “The Sunday Times” of London, the chances are that even the masterpieces of the common wouldn’t make it to their list. Had any missed the ironical news, here it is.
“One of the most enduring myths of the book world now stands exposed: the belief that great publishers and literary agents instinctively recognize a good work when they see one. Stories about earnest editors rescuing literary gems from “slush piles” always sounded a bit exaggerated but who would have thought that these might be pure fiction? Now, we know - thanks to an undercover media investigation, which has revealed a shocking level of a lack of literary appreciation among some of Britain’s famous publishers and agents. Let alone discovering new talent, they were not able to recognize even some of the existing classics, such as Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul’s In a Free State, when these were submitted to them disguised as new works by aspiring writers”.
Now back to the issue. That is about the falsity of fame, even of the truly deserving.