The name of the type is Francis Plug. That is, literally Francis Plug. He’s supposed to be a gardener, but he tends to pretend he’s not feeling well to skip work whenever a writer is around. Francis Plug claims to be a writer. He sometimes goes around looking for his book in bookstore windows. But then he remembers that he hasn’t finished his book yet and that there’s no way he can be in any bookstore yet. He drinks more than necessary. Especially in book presentations. He has a problem with introductions. Actually, he has more than one. For starters, he doesn’t go to any where the author hasn’t won the Booker. Because some limit must be placed on the matter of presentations, aren’t there too many?
Determined to turn into literary material what writers do when they’re not writing, or rather, what they do to try to make what they write sell —talks, talks and more talks—, Plug analyzes, as if it were a story in progress, the absurdity of his forced encounters with writers of all kinds. There is Salman Rushdie, the day Plug decides to stop ordering glasses of wine and order the whole bottle to enjoy it comfortably in his chair while wondering what kind of things are growing in the hot, stagnant water that served the author too long ago from ‘The Satanic Verses’. On the way out, Rushdie, like the rest, has to put his signature on a copy of Plug, and she can’t believe that he isn’t kidding her: “Plug? Really? & rdquor ;.
An Edward Hopper of the literary
The curious and valuable thing about the recklessness of Paul Ewen, the author behind the fictional Plug —that in any case, he presented himself as that kind of writer gardener before the writers he approached, because it is to them that all of their books are dedicated; Francis Plug’s edit: ‘How to be a public author’ (Impedimenta), includes a photograph of all of them, as sample and proof—, is that, like an Edward Hopper of the literary, he makes literature with what would be considered a blind spot in the life of the author himself. A narrative moment, since the author is explaining himself, in which, however, nothing happens. Beyond that, with each new appearance, the author becomes more public. And how do writers bear such exposure? Why do they do it?
There are no answers in this deliciously comic boutade. Only situations that ridicule themselves, and that allow the reader to be present at the moment that he describes and at the same time, to have access, in some way, to the mind of the writer who is undergoing the act in question. Of course, fans of the authors that Plug runs into will enjoy it more than the rest. After all, they are stolen private moments, unsuspected situations to which one after another, Margaret Atwood to John Banville, from Hilary Mantel to Graham Swift, from VS Naipul to Keri Hulme, they cope. Oh, the fact that we don’t even know in what sense they were real only adds fuel to a fire that is, in a sense, taking literature, starting from itself, to another place.
There is a complaint, a savage criticism, at the very idea of the public act for someone who wants nothing more than to be alone, at home, sitting at his desk, and it is through the absurd that Plug tirelessly finds, each time, the way to make clear how ridiculous he is. The path is always different, but the end is the same: nothing makes sense, starting with the aspiring gardener writer who drinks too much sitting in the front row. Is a writer’s time really worth so little to waste it on those kinds of guys? Ewen’s corrosively brilliant book is telling the world, which, on the other hand, is proving that placing a writer among the public willing to narrate from that, it exposes the absurdity.
Noah Baumbach, the filmmaker, son of the writer Jonathan Baumbach —the kind of rare writer, and at the same time brilliant and baroque, who always felt misunderstood: yes, he is the one he talks about in ‘A Brooklyn Story’—, dedicated a entire movie—my favorite of his—to one of those book launches. The protagonist, Margot (Nicole Kidman) is an ardently cruel writer, Deeply embittered, she goes with her teenage son to her sister’s wedding in the small town where she is also due to present her latest book. Francis Plug could have been among the small audience at the presentation in which Margot consumes herself, in a cannibalistic exegesis, which is not at all funny, and yet which also ends up being turned into a narrative vehicle.