"The invented I of journalism" as Malcolm calls it, is not a stable entity. One of the things she realised early on in her writing career was that, she says, "this 'I' was a character, just like the other characters. It's a construct. And it's not the person who you are. There's a bit of you in it. But it's a creation. Somewhere I wrote, 'the distinction between the I of the writing and the I of your life is like Superman and Clark Kent.'"It seems particularly relevant - hopefully obviously - to our online lives, whether it's a Facebook profile that only presents your best features, or a blog such as this: you may have noticed that parts of my personal and professional life are off-limits. I have colleagues, friends and loved ones; quite rightly, I don't want to discuss them in this forum and many of them don't want to be discussed. I also edit out the boring bits of my life unless I think I can entertain you with them (coming next: tips for ironing your socks). I don't even talk about my meagre research very much because I recognise that your enthusiasm for Welsh and proletarian 1930s literature is less constant than mine. Other people are different. LitLove and The Red Witch are exemplary my favourite online academics, whereas Blossom shares her insight into the (fascinating) life of a student divorced mother with a candidness that I admire but couldn't (and wouldn't) share.
That's partly why I use Plashing Vole rather than my actual name: not particularly to hide, but because the I of the blog is not the rather greyer I some of you see in class, the pub or at home.
And on the same subject, anyone else who writes that Prospero 'is Shakespeare', I will fail you on the spot. Biographical criticism is a blind alley. If people could only write about what they'd personally felt or seen, we'd have no SF and very little other fiction. What's more, Prospero is a very sinister individual, not the kindly old gent people seem to think he is.
Meanwhile, as I head home to do some ironing while watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I'll leave you with some wise words from W. H. Auden, a man who liked his commas even more than I do:
…one does not have to be ashamed of moods in which one feels no desire to read The Divine Comedy… among the half dozen or so things for which a man of honour should be prepared, if necessary, to die, the right to play, the right to frivolity, is not the least'.That is all.