Laying the Breadcrumb Trail

After the Inquiry Second Edition

I am now middle-aged, so I expect a sort of 50-50 split among contemporary readers as to whether this pre-internet memory sounds familiar:
A child finishes a book chanced upon in the library or second-hand bookstore, and then scours the “By the same author” list at the front or back of the volume, trying to work out how to extend the chemical jolt the text has delivered to the brain.
But the child waits in a merciless informational void until the next library visit. Even in that blessed temple I could never be sure that any particular titles would be available. I might never find out how the trilogy started. I’d never imagine homing in on an author’s “best” book—if something appealed, I had to inhale everything adjacent to it, just in case.
Authors were understood only by a backwards projection—who must you have been to cast this imaginative shadow? Of course they gave interviews, wrote columns, were reviewed. But I didn’t live in a circle which would make me aware of such things. I simply arranged my thoughts about books in a private inner shrine. Showing it to others brought, at best, polite incomprehension.
So there is still something odd for me about talking about my books. I do it because I want people to read them, but I maintain that authors have an artistic responsibility to say in a book, anything that they really want to say about the book. It’s bad form to come back later and insist that well, actually, Bomblebiff died of Covid four years after the ending and those memes are misrepresenting what Splakette really meant. Once the damned thing is out, it’s with your readers. They create its meaning now. Your job is to get out of the way.

On the flip side, it feels a tremendous luxury to watch readers assemble a communal body of response—to know that anyone has laughed or cried or followed the trail of breadcrumbs you carefully laid. I’m grateful for everyone who’s read After the Inquiry and allowed me a peek into what you made of it, and excited to know with this reprint that Ethos is keeping it on the shelves for the next readers to find. 

Jolene Tan
Author of After the Inquiry

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