The eyes, some say, are the windows of the soul. Maybe. But what about writing style? What does that reveal about the writer’s soul? Does a man’s syntax afford us a glimpse of his heart? Does the way a woman wields a semi-colon reveal the contours of her conscience?
I ask this because, on more than one occasion, I have been surprised by meeting an author whose writing style I either loved or despised. The surprise came when I realised that they were nothing like they appeared to be on paper. Their authorial voice bore little or no relation to their actual voice.
This, of course, is not always the case. Fierce writers often turn out to be fierce people – and vice versa. Pyetr Turgidovsky would be a case in point: he is every bit as spiteful and mean in person as he is in prose. In other cases, though, we have to accept that there is a discrepancy. The Swedish writer Lars Shloek, for instance, writes beautiful lyrical sentences; soft as spring blossom and warm as a newborn puppy. Lars himself is by all accounts an obnoxious philanderer.
The critic Lise Raussenan, meanwhile, has penned some of the cruellest reviews I have ever read. Her style is brilliant and compelling; fizzing with vituperative rage and uncontrolled passion. In person, however, she is rather sweet and demur. ‘It’s just the way I write,’ she explains: ‘not the way I am‘.