While writers bear a certain amount of self-deprecation, self-doubt and self-loathing, they also possess a fair amount of ego. After all, what could be more egotistical than thinking your thoughts, feelings and life experiences are of value to other people? That being said, there seems to be something challenging about taking writers of the twenty-first century seriously as intellectuals–mainly due to social media.
It’s almost impossible to see modern writers as people to be viewed with respect when they’re composing tweets about the latest Girls episode. No matter how incredible or life-changing a twenty-first century writer’s work, they will never hold the mystery and wisdom of writers past (e.g. Henry James and Franz Kafka). Even some of the most publicized and scrutinized writers, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger, were able to sustain a modicum of privacy.
While many writers of the current era rely heavily on internet and social media publicity to get the word out about their work, there is just something so desperate and undignified about it that “the greats” never had to endure. Can you imagine Shakespeare sending a Facebook invite for a play reading? It would be incongruous. And yet, that is the accepted norm for writers today. Perhaps that’s why David Foster Wallace saw fit to off himself and we haven’t really had an impressive modern author since.