Let us begin with the trivial, as I find that sometimes makes hard conversations easier. (Is it strange that I consider this to be a conversation?)
I refuse to concede that Austen is not autobiographical. Throughout her novels there is a spattering of the true instances of her life. She was Elinor to Cassandra's Maryanne. She was Elizabeth to Cassandra's Jane. Her niece was Emma, and she was Fanny. She, herself, was Anne - later in life, after the fates of Elizabeth and Elinor had passed her by. She writes from life, and therefore her life is in her works.
Your novels may not draw from life, but they most certainly draw from you. Do you want to know what I see in your words?
I see a man whose first novel is cockily confident, snarky in its language, the certainty in the words jumping off the page, the intent to irritate clear and crisp. I see a man whose mid-point novel is sardonic and mock-thick. A novel written by someone whose view on life had altered in the interim, who had become derisive, skeptical; a cynic. I see a man whose most recent novel is grim and dark; hopeless and empty. I see Persuasion without the attempt at a happy ending.
And in you, in these e-mails, I see a man who was once charming and elegant, whose words still evoke those days, even if he isn't aware of it; a man brilliant and witty and engaging. And I see a man who hates himself.
I do not think you are a saint, Daniel, and I am under no delusions. Whatever else you take from this, take that fact. I am not a young girl who is starstruck by your fame and your money and your words. I want nothing from you to further my own career. I write to you because I enjoy your company. It is as complicated and as simple as that.
As for your neighbors, I challenge you to ask them. And when they answer, I challenge you to take them at their word, instead of finding all the reasons they must be lying to you - especially the one that confuses you the most. I challenge you to ask him first, before fear takes the urge from you. And if he is at all like you, I recommend you do not let him give you a reason that is outside of himself. Those reasons are always false, in my experience.
When you write again, when it's quiet, I beg the tale of the one who left. Consider this my paragraph and your debt will be fulfilled.
Claire, who hopes she has not pushed too far with this e-mail, but who is not sorry for the words it contains.
P.S. Clarification, I am asking you to define what constitutes a 'better experience.'
P.S.S. I look forward to your e-mails from the time I hit the 'send' button.