Unmasked: A love letter to our favorite Dilettante

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilletante.

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilettante.

There’s a rumor going round that our dearest Dilettante, Helena Hann-Basquiat (not to mention her hair-raising alter ego, Jessica B. Bell) has been unmasked. And well, I think the title of the – ah – revelatory post says it all. Helena is the Goddamn Batman. She doesn’t need to be unmasked.

The name and gender of my writerly-friend matters not at all. There is brilliance that flows from that pen, whether it’s styled as Helena’s frank prose, which is at turns, hysterical and heartbreaking , Jessica’s creepy mastery, or Ken’s bitingly-aware vignettes of human nature. That said, I support Ken’s decision – I support Ken and his writing, because I believe in it. I read his words – even the ones I’m supposed to be editing (ha ha, who’s the lucky chick with her hands on CHUK?!) – and I stand in awe of his talent.

Allow me, for those who may doubt, to defend Ken and his decision – either to unmask himself or to write as Helena – before moving on to why it doesn’t matter. If the name and gender is more important than the writing, well, then you’ve come to the wrong place.  A and D are not always myself and the druid – sometimes the voices fail me, and I fall back on snippets of conversation I’ve heard, or the voice of those within my sphere. I’m a writer. So is Helena. It’s what we do!

Not convinced? One of my favorite authors – Barbara Michaels/Elisabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz – has been writing as three different people since the 60s, probably earlier. It’s just, as Helena says in her post, the weird manufactured intimacy of the internet, in which we expect people to bare their souls to those of us who are interested, makes shifting personas to meet a literary need questionable.  We’re just so damn accessible – and I’m a willing participant in forcing that accessibility (case in point, this Twitter post from last night, attempting to entice Richard Armitage to narrate Changelings…. still waiting, Mr. Armitage).

The fact remains: regardless of this amorphous concept of identity, we as readers have lived Ken’s world – in bits and pieces, in snatches of brilliance and outright terror. We’ve been there every step of the way, and who or what our favorite dilettante is matters less than the journey we’ve taken. I know many who will agree with me: It’s a great journey.

That talent that I crow about can take us from laughter to tears in the space of a few sentences – or to a shocked, but amused, gasp if he’s feeling wicked. A year ago, when I was happily promoting the Kickstarter for Memoirs of a Dilettante Vol. 1, I wrote the following:

Through her words, I see her world. Penny is as familiar to me as people I’ve known my entire life, because that’s how Helena invites you into her world. Some of the things you’ll witness there are raw. Some of them are painfully but beautifully honest and still others are downright silly and fantastic. And all of it will keep you captivated. Every last second. You’ll devour her words and in turn, they will devour you, spit you out and leave you satisfied they did.

Ken does a remarkable thing, which is to create intimacy where there could easily be none. The face and the name don’t matter because the writing connects us to a wider range of human experience – connects us to a raw, captivating nerve, which transcends identity because it has the ability to speak to all of us.

I decided two years ago the mastermind behind “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and I were going to be friends. And my nerdy persistence paid off – even though I’m not the greatest friend out there. Nevertheless, Ken, in turn, has persevered, and trusted me with the information of who-he-really-is, and that is a gift I cherish from the bottom of my crusty heart to the ends of my tippy-toes. Furthermore, Ken has trusted all of us with this information. Treasure it. Hold this writer close to your heart and let him weave his magic over you. Because that, more than names, more than genders, is who he truly is, and that is what we’ve been privy to this whole time.

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Now, Ken has a PubSlush campaign going live in 5 short days. If you’re new here and want to know what all the hubbub is about, check it out. Better yet, head over to “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and read to your heart’s content. You will not be sorry you did. I know I never have been.

~ A and D – otherwise known as Katie Sullivan

11 thoughts on “Unmasked: A love letter to our favorite Dilettante

  1. I love love love that you made this about the writing, and not me. My wife thanks you, too. She’s very possessive about the fact that while Helena’s readers may get my mind and imagination, only she gets all of me, warts and all. Not that I have warts.

    • I think for writers, it always has to come down to the writing. The story might be wrenched from our souls, we might bleed all over the damned typewriter, but its really about writing, not so much us. That said, I think *you* are pretty fantastic and your wife is a lucky lady. I’m glad she shares you with us! 🙂

  2. BRILLIANT way of following up the reveal. I’m so pleased that the message which has been consistently reinforced is that what matters is the WRITING and the talent of the author behind the Dilettante.

    Like you, I’m honoured and delighted to know Ken and his brain and his works of incredible fiction. And I can’t wait to read the next set 🙂

  3. Nice job on the follow up to Ken’s announcement. I too believe it is the writing that counts. On another note, since you are tweeting to Richard Armitage to narrate Changelings, I guess I can stop waiting for a callback. Right?

  4. Dear Katie,

    Like you, I believe Ken is a genius, a little fershimmelt perhaps, but, nonetheless, brilliant. Arthur Golden could’ve easily written “Memoirs of a Geisha” under an assumed female name and no one would’ve known the difference. I appreciate a man who’s not afraid of his feminine side.

    All I can add, is “You go, Helena darling.”

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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