by syaffolee

On Anonymity

At the start of this month, I searched several bookstores before finally finding a store that only had one copy of a book that was the last in a series I had been following. The series is so-so; I only kept up with it due to a curiosity for how the author would end it. Would the last book somehow pick up the slack from the middle books in the series or would it just fizzle out? Disappointingly, it did the latter.

Not long after finishing the book, I did a little surfing online and discovered the author’s blog. In one entry, she talked about a review she found in which the reader didn’t whole-heartily like the book. But that, apparently, wasn’t what bothered her. What she didn’t like was that the review was by an anonymous person. My first thought was: what use would it be if the review was signed by a real name? Is the author going to call the online reviewer to tell them that they’re wrong? (My view on books is this: the author may have a particular intent when writing a book, but when it’s finally out in the wild for mass consumption, what really matters is the reader’s own interpretation and experience of the story. No one, let alone the author, can dictate how someone should read something.)

I’ve done brief reviews of some of the earlier books in the series. And I suppose I have been anonymous. But only in a semi kind of way (anyone with any inclination to do so could easily dig up the pertinent info). There are others who are even more anonymous than I am, and I respect that. There are reasons why people don’t put their real name on everything–ranging from professional to privacy issues.

What I don’t understand is why the author dislikes the anonymous. As I asked before, what use would it be otherwise? Is the author going to make a list of names to harass? Is the author paranoid that the anonymous is actually some famous New York Times critic, an influential editor, a rival author with an ax to grind? Does it even matter if they are?

One argument against being anonymous is that being anonymous is tantamount to being cowardly. The thought is–one can hide behind anonymity to say whatever they wish without repercussion, especially saying things in which they would never tell another person to their face. Perhaps. But in some ways, I think there is more honesty in anonymity. If one is speaking to another face to face or real name to real name, one must consider that it may not be real at all–just a genteel mask used to mute and hide the actual thoughts and to influence others’ perceptions.