…and we writers are just players.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’re most likely aware of another blogger–Helena Hann-Basquiat. The Dilettante made an announcement today that comes as a surprise to many. I was fortunate enough to be handed the red pill or peek behind Oz’s curtain or [insert cult classic reference of your choice here] over a year ago.
Helena had been honest from the beginning that Helena Hann-Basquiat was a pseudonym, a mask of sorts. This mask, however, was not one worn to deceive the readers, but armor. If you’ve read anything on Memoirs of a Dilettante, you know that the stories told are often heart-wrenching–stories of abuse, of struggling with the demons of depression and self-doubt, of loss. There are also stories of love, of adventure, and more than a fair dose of utter hilarity. While some names and details have been changed and some of the “characters” in Helena’s tales are amalgamations of real people, the heart of these stories is true.
When Helena began to first drop hints that I would likely be surprised if I did meet the wizard behind the curtain and offered to answer any questions I had about details that didn’t seem true–I hesitated. If you’ve seen Catfish (or really, are aware of any internet scams) you can understand my trepidation. Many years ago, I let myself be tricked by someone (a supposed friend of a friend) on the internet and ended up feeling hurt and foolish. However, I asked a few questions and none of the answers were worrisome. Helena hinted that I knew the face behind the curtain, that another blogger with whom I had interacted was the real Dilettante. I could tell as time went on that my friend was starting to grow uncomfortable with the mask and wanted to reveal the truth. So, somewhat like Neo, I picked up the phone.
I’ll admit, it was a bit of a shock–although I had my suspicions–to hear Ken voice rather than the husky, Lauren Bacall-esque voice I had attributed to the Dilettante in my mind. I should say here that Ken has a lovely voice–speaking as well as singing. It was a short conversation and I honestly don’t remember what we talked about–I think it was snowing and as a first year New Englander, real winter was new to me.
Sometime later, Ken asked if I was upset–if I felt I’d been lied to, if I felt tricked. I never felt betrayed. I’m somewhat of an open book–while at the same time being somewhat wary about befriending internet personas for the reasons mentioned above. If I had known the truth, perhaps I would have talked about my obsession Tom Hiddleston a smidge less…but probably not. Ken has been a great source of encouragement to my writing–not only by example, but by a constant willingness to read and give feedback. Often I’d send the same thing several times–begging for input the night before a piece was due for class–and I knew I could always count on honesty and quality advice. It’s difficult to find someone who is willing to read all of your work, no matter how rough, and who can offer real advice for its improvement. When I wanted to give up, Ken was always there reminding me that I don’t do this for anyone else.
If there’s one thing I have learned about the artist formerly known as Helena–it’s you’ll look far for someone with such kind heart, for someone who hates to see people hurt or upset. I can understand those sentiments that some are feeling–confusion, anger, even betrayal. However, Helena came to be as a way to process and come to terms and grapple with things that were horrible and hard and messy–but also to tell stories of love and beauty and to pour out the expressions of a creative soul. I would argue the bulk of blogs are born out of the same needs.
Helena’s persona was based on the structure of a self-admitted unreliable narrator–embellishing some of the details and stretching the boundaries–but wasn’t it Camus who said “Fiction is the lie we use to tell the truth, Darlings?”