Idea Fountain creator Lorette C. Luzajic‘s new book Fascinating Writers: twenty-five unusual lives dives into the lives of famed authors, via brief narratives which showcase Luzajic’s trademark irreverence, through her insightful and totally subjective experiences. Not only will you be brought on a enchanting journey to meet Lord Byron, Ernest Hemingway, and Leo Tolstoy, among many others — 10% of proceeds from this book benefits charity that advocates for freedom of speech, the most fundamental of human rights and the foundation of all others.
Here Lorette talks about why she chose these 25 people specifically, which author she admires most and her plan to write 1000 essays on fascinating people:
Why did you choose these 25 specifically?
I choose my fascinating writers the same way I choose any of the interesting figures for my Fascinating People project – with a combination of sparked inspiration and random selection. (Some of these essays were first published at Book Slut). The Fascinating People project was born out of the lifelong joy and inspiration and curiosity that I get from various interesting personalities. My original goal was to create one thousand essay length biographies over the years that would give me the chance to get to know more interesting people and share them with others. No one has the time to read full-length biographies of every interesting personage. But I didn’t want simple Wikipedia entry style fact-sheets- I wanted to immerse myself in the life and work of the person and share my own wholly subjective experience. The hope is that ultimately my audience will be intrigued by some and go on to delve further on their own. While I write about all kinds of people, this collection showcases only writers. And I went out of my way to be as diverse as possible. Hence, we have the writers considered the greatest novelists of all time, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. But we also have popular romance writer Danielle Steel. We have kids’ book writer Dr. Seuss; we also have poets Lord Byron and Vachel Lindsay, who couldn’t differ more one from another. There’s Arthur Miller and there’s Haruki Murakami. I want readers to see their favourites but also to learn about writers they may never have read. I also wanted to push myself outside my usual genres.
Out of the authors which would you deem your “favorite”…and why?
As far as the essays themselves go, I feel that some were especially inspired: “The Secret Scourge of Gerard Manley Hopkins”; “A Strange Futility: Notes on Arthur Miller”: and “The Jewel in the Heap: the Legendary Crad Kilodney.” But I would have to hail Camille Paglia for telling it like it is even when I don’t like to hear it. Her rigorous thinking and thorough, dialectical understanding of art and literature is based on history, science, economics, and anthropology, not vacuous theory. In other words, she writes about the way the world really works. Her no-holds barred approach and sardonic sense of humour and wicked intelligence are all formidable forces. When I was 23, I couldn’t put her stuff down even though much of it made me furious- as it does her numerous critics. What did I know then? I was barely a child and Paglia had read and studied vigorously from history, not from theories about the way she wanted the world to be. She predicted the mess the world would be in if western culture continued along with our politically correct theoretical garbage. And here we are. No, I don’t agree with her on every last bit- she taught me not to follow anyone blindly. But in part because of the demands Paglia makes on my intellect, I try to remember to have an open mind and to be free and unembarrassed about changing it if the facts roll in to prove me wrong. Her seminal work, Sexual Personae, is truly a book about everything. I have enormous respect for her outrageous intelligence and for her refusal to mollycoddle her audience or her peers.
With which author do you feel most alike, and unlike? Why?
I am surely drawn by the shared chaos and ups and downs of those who live a creative life, and find something to relate to in every story. These personal details colour the essays, which are wholly subjective and experiential rather than objective and scholastic.
But I think that the meaning of the whole exercise for me is about the rich tapestry of human experience and how unique each personality is. I believe that our differences get the short shrift in a world where we talk about “overlooking our differences” and “finding shared experiences” and “we’re all from the same planet.” To me, our shared humanity is a given- but it has become too fashionable to sneer at the concept of individuality and to be “colour blind” and assume everyone has the same abilities and potentialities. The well intended push for equality has in some ways lumped humans together. Self interest and personal freedom have taken a back seat to collective rights: in some circles, those who speak of liberty and the individual pursuit of potential are downright pariahs, since the collective is supposed to come first. But it is the other way around- we cannot possibly have group rights until we have individual liberty.
Collectivism is a huge failure, disastrously so, in every historical situation. That’s because it denies personality even when it nobly seeks equality for all. We aren’t all the same- we are individual personalities with unique contributions and journeys. This is manifest in our hunger for celebrity- the cult of personality is not some dismal symptom of mass hysteria- it is an ongoing historical hunger to honour individuality. Admiring a famous person doesn’t diminish the non-famous person at all. It reminds us of our uniqueness, and every role is different. Not every person is meant to be famous, but only Madonna was meant to be Madonna; Gandhi could not have been someone other than Gandhi; Tolstoy could not have been someone else. This is the error of collectivist thinking- that “anyone” can. This is simply untrue, and it also dishonours the specific gifts and challenges each of us have that are unique to ourselves.
I love people stories; I love fascinating people. The human story is extremely colourful. This is what I celebrate through Fascinating People- how despite things in common, we are not the same. Camille Paglia calls it the “rainbow riot of individualism.”
This is one of the reasons why freedom is so important to me, freedom of expression, a cause I support through my creativity portal, Idea Fountain. Without freedom, people struggle for food and water and for a voice. If you are punished politically or economically for free thought, you can never reach your unique potential and live your personal contribution. People are writers and inventors and philosophers and scientists- but if they are not free, they cannot pursue their unique vision and they cannot share it. This is a tragedy.
What is one thing you find that most authors have in common, if anything?
The written word…
We heard that there is going to be a companion book to this one. Tell us about that.
Since I am a writer and an artist, and since freedom of expression is my cause or raison d’etre, it is only fitting that the first books under my Idea Fountain imprint express these things symbolically. So my plan is to have a companion book, Fascinating Artists: twenty-five unusual lives. I wanted this to be ready pretty much at the same time, but alas, it is still half in my imagination and not on paper. I constantly underestimate the amount of work involved in anything I do- I have a zillion ideas a day, so I should be able to execute them just as fast. And that is not how it goes! But Fascinating Artists is coming. I just can’t say for sure when.
You mentioned that your original goal was to create a thousand Fascinating People essays over your lifetime. Is this still the plan?
It’s still the plan, but each piece, however short, is time consuming. I immerse myself in the personality and the work of the individual and there is a lot of research involved, too. I wanted to have ten volumes each of Fascinating Writers and Fascinating Artists, for a total of 250 each, and then 500 assorted other figures. So far I have done about ten percent of the life goal- around a hundred of them. My most recent addition was American realist painter Ed Hopper. Right now I’m working on Saddam Hussein. But I’m also working on two major art shows, a collection of short stories, a poetry book, two children’s books, several art commissions, and research in history and politics. I lament that there are so few hours in a day!