Lionel Shriver argues in The Observer (apropos Harvard getting their mitts on some salacious scrawlings from Norman Mailer's paramour) that we should disregard the details of the writer's life when we consider the works.
This sounds, superficially at least, like Barthes's Death of the Author, arguing that once a writer offers up his/her work to the public, we are all effectively writing it according to our personal tastes, whims, instincts and prejudices. But Shriver isn't going that far. As a reader, she just wants to keep the creator and the creation in separate compartments, and asks that the same courtesy is extended to her as a writer:
"In fact, I do not especially care to know anything about the novelists whose work I admire, for I've found that meeting most writers distracts, if not detracts, from their work. As a whole, we authors are a disappointing bunch. Thus I've never understood why any of my readers would want to meet me, either. My favourite colour should have no bearing on my novels, which you like or you don't."
All of which sounds eminently reasonable: we should take each piece of writing as a discrete entity, with no reference to what the author did before or after or during. Except that, if we take this to the logical conclusion, we shouldn't refer to anything the author has written before or after. And Shriver's article is suffixed with the information that her latest novel The Post-Birthday World is now out in paperback. If we don't care about the author of the article, why should we care about this book she happens to have written? She's also failed to notice that the two living authors who do most to keep details of their personal lives from their readers, Salinger and Pynchon, have made themselves even more fascinating than most writers whose private lives are public property.
So what's Shriver asking for? She seems to demand that 'Lionel Shriver' be nothing more than an authorial brand, a badge of quality that we must promise not to deconstruct. OK, maybe her life, her opinions, her favourite colour really are utterly tedious. But, for good or ill, the punters will be the judges.