I never got to know Martin Amis, but I was always a little in love with the photo that his girlfriend, Angela Gorgas, took of him in his prime, one in which, very young, he looks at the camera while smoking, with his hair disheveled by the wind and a scarf around his neck, with the city in the background and all the earmarks of being what he was: a brilliant English writer. I once attended a talk of his and at the end I asked him to sign a book for me. Very polite, he asked a couple of questions, to which I could only escape embarrassed as a teenager.
The exact term that describes mine and Amis is the parasocial relationship: an asymmetric relationship established between two parties where one knows a lot about the other, while the latter has no idea of the existence of the other being. It is, for example, the relationship that is created between the fan and the admired person. I have felt the lack of Amis a lot, just as I was saddened by the deaths of Ana María Matute, Doris Lessing or Terry Pratchett as if he had treated them. Somehow, he knew them, had read them. Although I have also adored other authors and I have not felt the same way when they left. I remember how the death of Delibes left many friends devastated.
Parasocial relationships have also changed with the internet. The emotional connection that was previously only established with artists or with very popular people has been democratized. There are anonymous beings whose lives I have been following online for twenty years. Whoever establishes a parasocial relationship with the Anagram Compacts of his youth is no better than whoever does it with a singer who moves him, with an instagramer whose style he admires or with a tweeter whom he respects. The author of Dooce, a pioneering American blogger and one of the first people to chronicle her life online, recently died young, shocking a legion of fans. The network is young, and we are still not used to seeing our virtual parasocial relationships die.
Although the relationship with someone who has shared something with us is as imaginary as mine with Amis, the grief is real. Why does this communication happen only sometimes? I don't know if it has to do with the other's talent, with oneself or with the inexplicable ties that, in the end, make up everything.