As Downton Abbey fades from the screen, the Dowager’s butler, Septimus Spratt, lingers in my mind. Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald suggested “crafting a proposal for a series in which he runs off with Harriet Walter’s delightfully crackly-voiced Lady Shackleton (aunt of Henry Talbot, Lady Mary’s new husband)…” Faithful viewers would watch any spinoff.
Spratt’s anonymity as a writer for Lady Edith’s magazine has me wondering about other anonymous authors. Who lurks among us, observing and noting incidents worthy of fiction? Elena Ferrante, the Italian author of the four series novels, beginning with My Brilliant Friend, has successfully eluded exposure. Recent speculation has the anonymous author as a college professor. Rachel Donadio wrote for the New York Times:
“Published between 2010 and 2014, Ms. Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels — “My Brilliant Friend,” “The Story of a New Name,” “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” and “The Story of the Lost Child” — have rocketed the novelist from near obscurity to international fame since the first appeared in English translation in 2012… the novels trace the friendship of two women, Elena and Lila, from their childhoods amid the poverty of postwar Naples through the political and social changes that swept Italy in the ’60s and ’70s, to the present day. In “The Story of a New Name,” Elena, who is the books’ narrator and becomes an accomplished writer, studies at Pisa from 1963 to 1967. In a dramatic scene, she throws some enviably strong youthful writings by Lila, who does not fulfill her own writerly talent, off the Solferino Bridge in Pisa into the Arno one November.”
The last line describing throwing writing into the sea prompted me to find the book. I am reading The Story of a New Name, looking for clues about the author, but I understand the freedom of writing without exposure, so I am not looking very hard.
Beware of writers – they use everything you tell them…eventually.