I just started taking a four-week MOOC from the University of Edinburgh called “How to Read a Novel.” I feel I’ve been in a writing lull these days with a couple of semi-stagnant projects unable to engage my full attention, so I thought maybe a short course about reading might trigger some writing muscles (and distract me from the distracting daily political news).
Part of this course involves discussion of the four shortlisted novels for this year’s James Tait Black fiction prize and the first week’s book is C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings. In reading The New Yorker review to which we received a link, I was struck by this paragraph:
“And why is it that you publish under your initials?” one of Morgan’s characters asks M. J. Deane, a writer with a brief but crucial role in “The Sport of Kings.” Deane responds tartly, “ ’Cause I ain’t nobody’s business.”
In context, that answer is so plausible that it scarcely reads like the curt autobiographical nod it is. C. E. Morgan, whose full name is Catherine Elaine, has made it her business to be nobody’s business. She was born in Cincinnati and lives in Kentucky. She studied English and voice at Berea College, a tuition-free school in Appalachia for the academically talented but economically strapped, and has a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School. She has declined to make public almost anything else about her life…
I haven’t been asked why I used “R.D.” rather than “Rick” or “Richard” or “Richard Dietrich” on my last novel, but if anyone asks, I like “because I ain’t nobody’s business” as a succinct response. I’ve always preferred writers who don’t let their personal biographies get in the way of the books.