It’s strange writing books wherein you are the head character. People read them and they get an incomplete idea about you. Wrong, right; I don’t think it can be either. It’s just a guess, based on a passage of time presented using story elements, that will become obsolete as the character those elements where focused on changes. I’m not the same person I was in the Bullpen Gospels. But because of the Bullpen Gospels, I will always be that person.
I recently had conversation with someone who wanted to talk about sports stars. Specifically he wanted to talk about why he knew some sports stars were good people and why he knew others were not. The good people were good because, in the 30 or so seconds of conversation he shared with them, they were very polite. The bad people were bad because they ignored him, or were rude for 30 seconds, or he had heard bad rumors about them through friends he knew—friends he’d shared more than 30 seconds of conversation with so he could trust their opinion.
I’m not trying to turn this into some moral imperative, or deep analysis of the human psyche. We all form assumptions about people based on our personal experiences, even if some of those experiences are exceedingly limited or contextual, or not ours at all. I do it too. In fact, I think we all recognize that we do it, and won’t stop doing it just because we know we do it.
What I think is interesting is how the celebrity process freezes a person into a form of static existence. In someways I’m thrilled that people will pick up my books decades from now and know me and my story. That’s the incredible nature of writing. It transcends time to place a person in your mind, in your world, even posthumously. Yet, on the other hand, writing, or fame, or being known in a non personal way… it freezes you into some static half-life not wholly based on what or where you presently are.
I think about athletes who have bad reputations based on a limited sample. They’re like a skin cell that’s been captured by the public then used to create a full man, a villainous man, a scandalous man, when the only actual part of him that’s real is the skin cell that started it all. I even think about the ones everyone loves based on similar knowledge. Then I think about the ones we used to love but now hate. The Lance Armstrongs, Barry Bonds, etc…
I’ve waxed philosophic on the topic before, but it fascinates me how so little of fame and celebrity is what the person who is famous or celebritized is actually doing, and so much of what the masses inject into the famous person. We accept people as worthy, unworthy, smart, stupid, good, evil, polite, selfish all based on reports on, blips featuring, or skin cells extracted from famous types that have effortlessly become icons concerning things we won’t grant some the finest or most horrible people we’ve known for years.