When we fall in love with a novel, we sometimes believe we come to know its author just by reading the book. From reading the Harry Potter novels one can easily conclude that its author — J.K. Rowling — is intolerant of oppression, politically progressive, a strong believer in diversity, and most certainly, British. All of these things about Rowling are overwhelmingly true, though if we found out she hated children, we’d probably be totally scandalized. (She doesn’t, thankfully).
Similarly, if you read Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land you might erroneously assume the author was a free-love hippie, when in fact, Heinlein’s libertarian and conservative views couldn’t be further from the tone of that particular novel. With Robert Heinlein and Stranger in a Strange Land, it’s almost as if the novel’s free-love protagonist offers a mirror image to the novelist — it’s Dr. Jekyll to a Mr. Hyde, say — something that is true of other writers on this list. Here are six super-famous writers with beliefs that are either inversions of their literary reputations, or just straight-up fascinating.
Philip K. Dick Thought He Was a Robot and, Also, the Spirit of Elijah
Okay, so this one isn’t too shocking. In addition to believing he was contacted by intelligences from beyond, the prolific and visionary sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick also toyed with the idea that he may, in fact, have been a robot. While the events of many of his novels (notably Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) certainly check with this passing fancy of Dick’s, he also flirted with the idea that he was possessed by the spirit of the biblical prophet Elijah. So, next time you’re at a Seder, ask if you can leave something out for Philip K. Dick and see if anyone gets it.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Believed in Fairies
In Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” the protagonist — the great Sherlock Holmes — says, “This Agency stands flat-footed upon the ground and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghost need apply.” Throughout the 56 short stories and four novels chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, never once does the stoic detective flirt with a belief in the supernatural or paranormal. And yet, late in his life, the creator of the uber-rational Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, asserted frequently that he had seen fairies and other supernatural creatures. Perhaps when Conan Doyle attempted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, he was attempting to destroy his rational side to have more fun with fairy thoughts. Either that, or fairies are totally real.
Anne Rice Found God
The author of Interview With the Vampire briefly became extremely pious, and even authored Christian texts (including her novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt). While the steamy and grotesque nature of her vampire books seems to be in stark opposition to traditional Christianity, as of 2010, Anne Rice maintains that she is still “committed to Christ.” But to be clear, Rice did officially leave the Catholic Church because she felt that being a “Christian,” was “quarrelsome” and “hostile.” It’s unclear if there are any parallels between her feelings about quarrelsome religious folks and the frequently quarrelsome vampire, Lestat.
James Joyce Thought Radio Controlled the Weather
In Sylvia Beach’s excellent memoir, Shakespeare and Company, the publisher and proprietor of the famous Parisian bookstore recounts her fascinating dealings with the late author of Ulysses, James Joyce. One interesting tidbit was Joyce’s growing impatience with the rise of radios in culture. Specifically, Joyce thought there was obviously some kind of correlation between the surge of radios use and rainstorms in France. Climate change deniers, take that! Or actually, don’t. Let James Joyce have it.
Hemingway Wanted to Work for the KGB
While this one is disputed, there is some indication that Ernest Hemingway was recruited by the KGB in 1941 and that he was a secret agent named “Argo.” The only problem is that apparently Hemingway was really bad at being a double agent — assuming he really wanted to be one — as he never really supplied the KGB with any good intelligence. While we tend to think of Hemingway as an American man of his time (as he’s portrayed in Midnight in Paris), his real-life political leanings were certainly all over the place. While it might be surprising that Hemingway had communist beliefs in the ‘40s, it’s not totally implausible.
Stephen King Hates Adverbs
Stephen King may be the undisputed master of horror, but there’s only one thing truly fears: adverbs. King maintains that adverbs were created with “the timid writer in mind.” He may be an extremely creative guy, but I don’t want to even think about how many grotesque and sickening adverbs I’ve overzealously employed to get my points across throughout the years.
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