jamesIn my capacity as Proprietor of jamesroberts.scot it has come to my attention that the more fastidious consumers of literary fiction often believe that their reading pleasure will be enhanced by knowing private things ‘about the author’. I am further led to understand that this phenomenon is particularly virulent amongst that generation for which a free university education, affordable mortgages and paying for recorded music are quite fanciful notions. Should you be seeking such authorial enlightenment may I recommend the following text {or I should say ‘monograph’, just to avoid any possible confusion between a long essay penned by an academic and a short missive sent from a mobile phone}:

Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author {1967}

The true genius of Barthes’ seminal work {IMHO} is this: when the unfortunate reader finds his or herself throwing Death of out of the toilet window whilst raving “what an impenetrable slab of garlic nonsense” they are in fact perfectly demonstrating dear Roland’s most profound spéculation.

I will not insult your intelligence by explaining the delicious irony in play here. Especially not when it will necessitate a discussion {or ‘discourse’ if we are really to make an effort} upon the breakdown of certainty between sign and signifier, the inadequacy of language as a method of transmitting true meaning, the inevitable divorce of the author from their work, and the use of words such as ‘phallogocentrism’. I would venture that neither of us will benefit greatly from being involved in such a semiotic car crash.

All that need concern us here is that Barthes, along with fellow ‘post-structuralists’ Jacques Derrida and some other Frenchmen, whilst being inadvertently responsible for the over use of the prefix ‘post’, ditto some public buildings being built inside-out and a large number of monumentally rubbish paintings, should be given credit for pointing out that there really is very little mileage {or kilometers} in the ‘reader’ getting to know ‘the author’.

I will now assume that the brighter amongst you have waved au revoir and gone directly to the ‘Buy’ segment of the jamesroberts.scot website to purchase two copies of one of my finest quality comic novels. For those who remain, the slower ones, those who have shrugged their shoulders and gone “eh?” {something else, coincidently, that the French do better than any other race, managing to look enigmatic and cool, whereas the rest of us just look thick} I fear the time has come for a little praxis.

Imagine for one moment that you ‘the reader’ were to know that I ‘the author’ am a forty-something gentleman of irregular habits residing in the farther reaches of the Scottish Highlands and, furthermore, that it states on my daughter’s birth certificate that her daddy’s profession is ‘freelance copywriter’, which, as we all know, is bourgeois double-speak for ‘mostly out of work’. Would this nugget of information help you identify, or perhaps even empathise with, Madagan Rùn, the main protagonist in my rip-roaring new novel Pardon Me: A Victorian Farce, when he finds his spermatic cord being cauterized, and furthermore, would it help you to understand the motives of the august surgeon responsible?

Or conjure up a world in which it is no secret that I ‘the author’ have previously found gainful employment as, in no particular order:

a cocktail waiter
a gas detection engineer
a vendor of cleaning cloths
a lecturer in modern history
a car salesman
a private tutor working with the financially advantaged
a care assistant working with the mentally disadvantaged
a furniture warehouseman
a fruiter’s assistant

Some of which I have been spectacularly under-qualified for. Would this foreknowledge make my portrayal of a round-robin cricketing tournament between the Rhodesian Chartered Company Corps led by the notoriously eponymous Cecil ‘Colossus’ Rhodes, the staff of the Coco Kabala Casino and Knocking Shop led by the notoriously married Chief Mwanga of the Mwangan peoples, a group of Uitlanders led by the notoriously scruffy Nat Clinker, and the Boer Doppers Militia led by the notoriously paranoid Oom Paul, all of which ends in a war, would it, I ask in all earnestness, make it any more intelligible?

Reductio ad adsurdam omne ignotum pro terribili as the saying goes. I rest my case.

Of course, I blame the internet. Before the advent of the .com scourge the average reader was content with a potted biog hidden away on the back cover of a soon to be lost jacket sleeve. You know the sort of guff I mean.

Jasper Wallet was educated at Eton, Balliol and then Eton again. His father, Sir Hercules Wallet Q.C., was one of the most celebrated minds of the ’90s and his magnum opus, Red All Over: being an account of the Rise and Rise of the British Empire, remains a great favourite with many tin-pot African dictators. His mother, the famed socialite and beauty Lady Maud Wallet {nee Bling}, was the honorary chairwomen of the Primrose League until three years after her untimely death in ’53. His uncle, the Reverend Plato Wallet, was implicated in the ‘tea-bagging’ scandal of ’26 and defrocked whilst Jasper was still at Eton once more. Re-leaving school in the early ’40s, the fragile Wallet was forced into a sustained period of idleness when his request to join the staff at Bletchley Park was rejected by the MOD, the Home Office and finally Churchill himself. It was during a wartime family holiday in Provence that Jasper was first introduced to longtime family friend and debtor Jonathan Harper-Murray, the publisher, and the idea of becoming a novelist took root. The Adventures of an Upper Class Onanist was an immediate hit with a smattering of reviewers, most of whom were at school once or twice with Jasper, and has subsequently been pulped in over thirty different countries. Having travelled extensively throughout Singapore, Jasper now lives in Highgate with his third wife Jakarta and their seventeen cats. He makes irregular contributions to the Guardian travel supplement and the British Conservative Party.

But nowadays it’s all blogs and Facebook and twitter and Instagram and god knows how many other enumerate forms of nauseatingly narcissistical dribble. What, I ask, has any of this five mile high pile of éléphant merde got to do with fine prose and penetrating erudition?

Can you imagine Charles Dickens troubling himself with a ‘blog’?

Tuesday 17th November 1853
Busy day again yesterday. Spent the morning campaigning for the abolition of the workhouse. In the afternoon wrote 8 chapters of my new novel Hard Cheese {note to self, must think of better title}. Spent the evening having intercourse with the wife’s sister {lol}.

No you cannot.

So as Proprietor of jamesroberts.scot may I wish intelligent and discerning readers everywhere many happy hours relaxing on their chez lounges smoking a hookah pipe and spoiling themselves with one of my finest quality comic novels. Rest assured I shall be working most nights and some of the day to bring you even more finest quality comic novels {I trust Google has got the hint by now}.

As for the rest of you, may I recommend Big Brother (the tv programme obv) and a frontal lobotomy.

Good day.