Inside the writer's mind… Or the reader trying to get inside the writer

In university, literature professors often asked us what the author was thinking. This would infuriate one classmate, who would become one of my closest friends. She would exclaim, “How can we know! He’s dead! No one can know these things.”

Inevitably though, the question would appear on an exam as if we indeed could look into the mind of long-dead, now-revered novelists, short story writers, and poets. Years later, I find myself looking at book jackets for some indication of the author’s persona. What could have happened in her past to make her kill this character in such a brutal manner? How could he craft such a rich, loving life for a little girl?

Now Tim Parks, in “The Writer’s Shadow” on The New York Review of Books site, has posted a thoughtful blog looking at the manner in which we readers try to learn writers. Read on: