There are rumbles in the blogosphere. Again. This time it’s about transparency – should you say upfront who you are when you review, or is it better to use a pseudonym?
That got me thinking. It’s always been that way, it’s just that these days geographic boundaries are less important and it’s using a different medium to the ones our ancestors would have known.
The dry announcements in the Court Circulars and the brief accounts of doings in Parliament and society held a lot of spice. It was spice that Lady Caroline Lamb exploited in her book “Glenarvon” which led to her downfall. In it, she wrote scurrilous things about society, her thinly disguised characters caricatures of actual people.
It wasn’t so much that she’d written a satire. Oh no, it was more than that. It was in a book that anyone could read if they could buy or borrow it. Anyone. That meant people outside the sacred circle of high society. While the exploits of Lady Caroline herself had led to widespread comment and even ridicule, especially her relentless pursuit of Lord Byron, in “Glenarvon” she talked about people she knew. And, being born to a rich and privileged family and then marrying into one, she knew all the gossip.
In short, there’s always been scandal. There are huge, big scandals which blow up and then subside, leaving memories. They make some people feel superior, and give a taste of a life that the reader sometimes knows she can’t achieve for herself. There’s the schadenfreude effect, which, even before it had a name, was a powerful inciter to this. Seeing someone powerful fall, although the disgrace and early death of Lady Caroline Lamb was more pathetic than tragic, an unbalanced woman given her head and going slowly mad in the full glare of the public spotlight.
Not that her husband suffered from her disgrace. He went on to become Queen Victoria’s flirt and Prime Minister. Mind you, he had scandal of his own. “Everybody” knew he wasn’t the son of the man who’d acknowledged parentage, but he’d been a younger son and not expected to inherit the title. There was gossip about him, too, but he was a clever man and he seemed to know what to do with that kind of notoriety.
There are people who can take all the scandal on the chin and actually use it to further what they wanted to do. One of my professors at university had this recipe. “Write a scandalous book, one with an outrageous premise, but one you can defend, then, with the eyes of the world on you, put that second, lovingly crafted book out.” Good idea, but I never had the nerve to see that through. I can’t defend something I don’t believe in and I’m not crazy enough to attract attention that way, either.
So what’s a girl to do? Go nuts in the spotlight and be remembered forever, or be gracious and well behaved and be forgotten?