Saturday, January 16, 2010

Favorite authors


Would it matter, to learn your favorite author was a despicable human being?

Let's forget the writers curse for a moment.

Standards change, we forgive great authors who have come before, blaming their sins on, "that's how it was in those days", whether they be anti-Semites, racists, homophobes or wife beaters.

What about the the really heinous?

Can you separate the work from the writer? Does Faulkner offend your modern sensibilities? Do you enjoy Lewis Carroll any less for his child pornography? Does Barrie's fondness for young boys put you off Peter Pan?

What would it take?

I suspect that a good story overcomes any and all. Any thoughts?

Toad

14 comments:

JRS said...

Very interesting question - I had a very similar conversation recently along the same lines: dealing with athletes and their off-field indiscretions...(i.e. - Michael Vick, Ron Artest, Tiger Woods). My opinion is that I'm a fan of the artist's/athlete's work - not them as people.

nanc said...

Interesting. Just last night I was in the bookstore and was looking at Alice in Wonderland as a possible book club suggestion. It was being promoted because of the soon to be released movie. I knew about the drug use but when I came home and did a little research I found more on his unusual interest in young girls. My thought is that if you know about an authors despicable behavior before you read their works it changes the way you interpret their writing. Before last night's google efforts Lewis Carroll was a substance abuser (something I've seen before) now he's someone I would keep away from my daughter.

M.Lane said...

If I looked behind the curtain at my favorite actors, authors, POETS, musicians, sports heros, etc., and based my reaction to their works on what I found there, I probably wouldn't have many books, albums, poems, paintings, movies or sports to enrich my life. I prefer to keep the curtain well drawn.

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Suburban Princess said...

I agree with M.Lane - there are some things I just dont need to know. I am not a fan of putting 'celebrities' up as role models.

Town and Country Mom said...

Good question. Ideally, I would still hold the work in high regard, but I'm afraid it's somehow diminished, though not dismissed. On the other hand, when I discover that an author or an actor or an artist is involved in some noble cause then I'm inclined to look at their work in a more positive light.

ELS said...

Faacinating question; the reverse is also true. I think most artists march to a different moral tune. Nothing worse than discovering a writer you dreamed would be fascinating is dull as dishwater. I recently listened to two favourite female authors for the first time, being interviewed about the decline of British Architecture. It was like being stuck on a bus behind two desperately suburban matrons. Nothing to say and awful, grating voices. Sob.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I believe in not putting others on a pedestal. We all have flaws and of course products of our childhood, and environment. However if it were despicable, & the author was living, I would not feel good about supporting them with a purchase of their book(s). The most tortured minds sometimes are the most talented of authors aren't they?
Happy weekend to you Toad ~ deb

Toad said...

I'm of the persuasion that the work trumps. Although, I wonder if the answer lies in who's ox is being gored.

For instance, Faulkner may not be popular with black readers, and an author who is a serial adulterer may not be popular with those who have been victimized by adultery.

It's becoming an interesting discussion none the less.

Gail, in northern California said...

I realize the question centered around writers but my mind immediately jumped to include all artists, any medium. In many respects, they are given a pass because we have come to expect a bit of eccentricity. But, there's a fine line...

I'm 65 and enjoy Michael Jackson. Listening to his music, I made allowances for his odd behavior chalking it up to a painful, demanding childhood. Over the years though, the awful, steady decline was heartbreaking and I finally reached a point where I could no longer watch his performances. He had reached his fine line.

His music will live on so I guess I would have to agree with you---work trumps.

Gail, in northern California said...

Forgot to mention...love the painting that was used for "Favorite authors".

This may be a last comment for a while. Winds are picking up steadily and since we live in the forest, we'll no doubt experience power outages. Weatherman indicated these powerful storms with lots of rain and powerful winds could last for a couple of weeks. Be careful what you wish for.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

I find it very hard to forgive suicide. But then again....

Toad said...

Gail we shall miss you if you're not here. Be safe. We'll wait.

JMW said...

I have to agree with what many have already said - I must separate the author from the work. So many of the brilliant books I love were written by troubled people. I prefer not to know much about the writer prior to my reading the work (although in most cases, that's hard to avoid). I'd rather let the prose stand on its own.

Shelley said...

I think it depends on when you knew about what. For example, I'd never investigated Sir Jeffrey Archer's books before I knew that he had spent time in prison and had all sorts of shady dealings in his past. I resent the abuse of power and prestige and so have on principle never bought one of his books. Other authors I already love to read? Not bothered what they did...