Thursday, September 10, 2009

"What do YOU do when your favorite author turns out to be a puppy-kicker?"

That's a great question, asked by an Anon on the Richard Peck post, and it's the third time in as many days that I've seen it pop up. First, poet Marilyn Nelson had a question over at her Facebook page: "how do we measure the value of the art made by an artist who is also a monster, who is known to have done monstrous things?" Then I saw at Judith Ridge's Misrule a discussion about A.S. Byatt's contention that writers for children have a greater than average propensity to be terrible parents, a hypothesis that neatly dovetails with the case, discussed on Marilyn's page, of Anne Sexton, a sometime-children's poet who sexually abused her daughter.

First, I don't think it takes a monster to do monstrous things--Anne Sexton was a deeply disturbed woman, not a monster--but I wonder what it might take to cause me to boycott an author, or to use an assessment of his or her life in qualitatively judging his or her work. One thing is for sure: "by their fruits ye shall know them" does not apply to writers!

40 comments:

Jana Warnell said...

I have to say that I LOVED Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books. I sobbed when reading the Amber Spyglass, great heaving sobs. This was before I was aware of the controversy. Being a Christian, albeit a pretty liberal one, I had a hard time when I found out he was an atheist. And three years later, and after much stern talking to myself about the issue, I still have a hard time with it. I recommend them to people and tell them they are good books to discuss with kids, if kids even get the metaphors, but I cannot talk myself out of the disappointment. Interestingly enough, I have not had a problem with any Dan Brown books (obviously I am not Catholic). And Phillip Pullman is not a monster, just someone with different views than me. I don't know why it soured the books for me, but it did! I wish I could go back to before I'd read any of the articles about him, back when I was innocent, but I can't!

Sarah said...

I stopped watching Woody Allen movies after the whole marrying-his-daughter thing (I have a stepmom I got when I was eight. Trust me--she's a parent) and I no longer buy Orson Scott Card books after his homophobic statements, though I do still guiltily read them.
There are many things I feel should not be illegal (marrying an adult, speaking your mind) but should be socially frowned upon to the extent that it is incredibly unpleasant and has serious social repercussions (marrying a close relative, hate speech). Buying or encouraging others to buy the products of people who have done these things is, in my opinion, telling them and others that these things are acceptable.
Once Allen and Card have passed away, I will probably feel like it's okay to buy their products, as they won't be financially rewarded. Not sure, though. It's still giving others the idea that I approve.

Anonymous said...

Um, I am that merry anon of the last thread. I didn't mean to imply that Peck was an all-out puppy-kicker. Just that he disdains them a little harshly at times.

Teacherninja said...

I love James Brown and Frank Sinatra music, but I wouldn't want to hang out with them. I heartily disagree with Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and Jim Carey--but it's pretty easy to avoid their work since they haven't done anything good lately. I don't know about authors. I try to keep an open mind. I like the first two Ender books, but the 3rd wasn't as good and I haven't read anything else by Card since I heard some of that stuff. But I mean I love Hunter Thompson and he was a wing nut. I think avoiding an author because of their religion or politics is silly if the work isn't really about that. I like Ann Lamont and I'm not a Christian, why should you avoid Pullman since he's an atheist. The books aren't about that. If he wrote "The Book of Atheism for Kids" you could avoid that, but even then I think we should all try to be more open to diverse points of view. Otherwise we end up with people keeping their kids home from school when a democratically elected president wants to give a benign speech about education. Even if it had been somehow politically slanted, I think it would be ok to watch and discuss it with students. Without healthy debate we lose our democracy. I haven't read it, but I've heard this is one of the major points in Susan Jacoby's book Age of American Unreason. I think most of us are smart enough to wince when we read something like Peck's comments, but still enjoy his work unless he starts writing "The Kids Guide to Becoming a Meth Head" or something.

Charlotte said...

William Mayne is a creepy case in point- I have a hard time reading any book of his that has girls in it, because any one of those girls could be based on a young fan he lured to his home and sexually abused (he plead guilty to 11 counts of this, tried to take his plea back, but couldn't). I find this harder to take than reading authors (like Card) whose beliefs I find repellant (unless, of course, the beliefs become an obvious part of the book).

Yet I loved some of Mayne's books, and won't part with them (A Swarm in May, anyone?)...

Anonymous said...

Charlotte,

I guess it's personal. Subjectively, I don't feel that Mayne's creepiness comes through his prose at all. I feel that Card's does. Card is arguably less offensive than Mayne, but it's the Mayne books I would add to my library. But that's because I don't think of him while I am reading them. Sometimes thinking of an author is so disturbing, I can't separate them from the book, even if I don't see anything in the book itself to disturb me. That seems to be the way you feel about Mayne.

Wagner is great. I can see why some people can't listen to it--not because of the music, but because of what they associate with the music. I'd still put Wagner on the shelf, though.

Objectively,I'd keep buying Card if I liked his work. Or Mayne's. Maybe they aren't the people I want the money to go to, but I think it's wrong to let something beautiful go out of the world just because it was a delinquent who made it. I think of Swarm in May. It's child audience must be almost non-existent. Still. No child who could appreciate that book should be deprived of it.

laura said...

It's a tricky question, and not one I have a definitive answer to, but those interested in thinking more about their response to Card will, I think, be interested in this piece on Card and Alan Turing.

Andy Laties said...

Reader Reception Theory seems to be relevant in this situation. Each book is constructed anew in the mind of each reader. Knowledge by the reader of the author's biography is simply one element of that reader's reading--more important is the total nature of the reader's preparation for the encounter with the text. So, it would be a shame if the author's biography ruined the reader's openness to the text written by that author. After all, authors don't "create" their texts in the manner we often assume they do. That is, authors themselves frequently express astonishment at their own creative process; authors routinely speak of how characters talk and make decisions autonomously--how the author is simply transcribing what the characters are saying and doing--

In other words, powerful writing apparently emerges from individuals, in truth writing happens in a broad social context within which authors are active. So, authorial biography really ought to be irrelevant for readers. The fact is that an awful lot of great authors have been kind of kooky or kinky or obsessive or -- name your psychiatric diagnosis (bipolar, psychotic, addictive...). That's why it's easy for me as a bookseller to sell Kathy Krull's collection "Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (And What the Neighbors Thought)"--or any other dishy, gossipy book about those naughty authors we love so much.

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

It is one thing to separate who an actor is from the characters he or she plays, and I can enjoy a performance from an actor whose political or ethical views I despise, but if he or she can actually act, then they're not playing themselves on screen, so I don't mind enjoying a film or show they're in. Writing is different. Editors don't re-shape the author's world view, they bring it into focus, so there is nothing between the writer's beliefs and the reader's view of them on the page.

I believe that what we write is an outgrowth of who we are and what we believe. That makes it difficult for me to love an author's works if they are an outgrowth of someone who reveals himself or herself to be cruel, or prejudiced, or abusive. If he or she disagrees with me but writes fine prose that illuminates the explanation of that disagreement, I'll read it eagerly, but it troubles me when there appears to be a clear disconnect between the author's world view and his or her writing.

Right now I'm finding it very hard to justify my appreciation of Orson Scott Card's books, short stories, and essays on writing. I have always admired his work, but if his work is an outgrowth of who he is, and if his faith drives him to vigorous argue for something I find so abhorrent, that belief must find its way into his writing, beyond its obvious, and poignant, appearance in Songmaster (and, I suppose Lost Boys, although I have always seen the villain as a pedophile as opposed to a gay character), so why do I still find his writing so powerful? Is it because there is more to who he is than he realizes, and subconsciously other beliefs are being expressed in his writing? Or is it because he represses who he is when he writes, and his books and stories and essays are not really an outgrowth of who he is at all, but shallow work to move readers and separate them from their book-buying dollars? I honestly don't know - I can hope the former.

rockinlibrarian said...

Responding to the responses, here are my thoughts:

A person may have one or two views you strongly disagree with, but that doesn't mean that you disagree with EVERYTHING that person believes, and that doesn't mean that those issues are even a part of the particular piece of literature you are reading. So if you are violently opposed to staplers, and someone who has spoken publicly about how all paper everywhere must be attached with staples, you don't need to hate the person's poetry about blueberry muffins. But it might affect your reading of their fantasies about glue.

I also thought of politics. I know lots of people are clearly One Side or the Other, but personally I can't in good faith support either party fully. I have to end up voting for someone who believes some things I don't agree with either way. It's my duty as a citizen to make a choice, but it doesn't mean I love everything my choice stands for. Just that there's enough good in it to make the choice. And that's a choice with more weight on it than What book should I read....

I love crazy rock music-- psychedelic rock, hard rock, etc. Some of my favorite artists led really messed up lives. Some of their lyrics are pretty messed up too! But the music is so good that I don't care.

That's me. I suppose it's different for other people.

Anonymous said...

"So, authorial biography really ought to be irrelevant for readers."

No, sorry, not working for me. I don't think you can tell people how they "ought" to react to a book.

Anon 5:28

Andy Laties said...

Anon 5:28,

So you're stating that authorial biography ought to be relevant for readers?

Then my question to you is: Do you know the biographies of all the authors whose books you love? Do you know the whole stories of their lives? Everything? Your favorite authors are irreproachable?

My favorite example in this regard is Leo Tolstoy and "Anna Karenina." The epigraph to the book reads "Vengeance is mine, I shall repay." (That's God speaking.)

The book was enormously popular. It was serialized, and readers hung on every chapter. But by the time he was finished writing the book, Tolstoy had come to understand that readers completely misunderstood his book. He'd meant to write a book about how a woman who'd committed adultery was punished by God. But his readers had fallen in love with Anna and they read his book as tragic. Shortly afterward he essentially disavowed the book and took to writing much more directly religious work. He wanted to make absolutely sure readers understood his intended messages about moral behavior.

So -- authors and readers can disagree about the text which that author has produced. Readers who love the character of Anna Karenina can disagree with Tolstoy that God should (and will) punish women stuck in loveless marriages, and who fall under the spells of heedless cads, and who are subsequently ostracized by polite society and former friends. Tolstoy turns out not to really own his character. The character comes to life in the minds of readers.

So -- why should you let an author's beliefs or behavior turn you off from the work that author has produced? Respect yourself as a reader. If it's marvelous work, let the work live autonomously in your mind. Author be damned.

Anonymous said...

No, Andy. Sometimes it is relevant, sometimes it is not. What I said is that there is no "ought."

Andy Laties said...

Well, I do not mean to be bossy. Quite the opposite. I respect your rights as a reader. I respect the subjectivity of every reader.

When you say "sometimes it is relevant, sometimes it is not" I can agree with you if what you mean is: "sometimes it is relevant TO ME, sometimes it is not relevant TO ME."

When you say: "there is no 'ought'"...I agree with you if you mean that you personally refuse to be bossed around on this subject. I applaud the fact that you are making individual choices.

In Roger's original post he quotes Marilyn Nelson asking:
"How do we measure the value of the art made by an artist who is also a monster, who is known to have done monstrous things?" Marilyn's question uses the word "we" -- the collective noun. I suppose that my responses on this string have been addressed to her question. I oppose collective judgement of the sort she seems to be querying on.

However Roger then asks: "I wonder what it might take to cause me to boycott an author, or to use an assessment of his or her life in qualitatively judging his or her work." This is a different question...and I believe that you, and some other people on this string, have been responding to it, not to Marilyn's question.

So, to clarify, I agree with you when responding to Roger's question about personal choices in taking authorial biography as significant in personal reading responses. However, when it comes to how we as a society or a polity should respond (which I take to be Marilyn's query), I would argue against authorial biography being significant. I think I may be in the minority, however. Son-of-Sam laws for instance prohibit criminals from receiving royalties from books they write about their crimes--I would say that most people think such laws are a good idea. I don't think they are. I think it's a very slippery slope, and that restrictions on access to all speech freedoms get generalized very rapidly, so that while these restraints may originate in efforts to restrain the speech of "monsters" they are very soon thereafter being used to restrain expression by "near-monsters" or the simply weird and disturbing. So, I think society shouldn't restrain the expression of "monsters."

I would also note that merely expressing a political or social opinion is certainly not a "monstrous act" and therefore Orson Scott Card should not be included anywhere in this discussion. His opinions aren't monstrous things. They may be repellent, sure. But monstrousness is the province of people who take action against others--that's what Marilyn Nelson is talking about herself: "known to have done monstrous things"

Here is Wilhelm Reich (psychiatrist to William Steig!) on this subject of social restraints on the reading of "monstrous" men: “I met you…in the person of a little Bronx judge with high ambitions and an uncertain future. You made a point of my having books by Lenin and Trotsky in my library. You didn’t know what a library is for, little man. I told you to your face that I also had Hitler and Buddha and Jesus and Goethe and Napoleon and Casanova in my library, and explained that to understand the emotional plague one must examine it closely from all angles. That was news to you, little judge. ‘Throw him in jail! He’s a fascist! He despises the people!’ You’re not the ‘people,’ little man. You’re the one who despises the people, because you work not for their rights but for your career. This too has been told you by any number of greathearted men. But you’ve never read them, little man, I’m sure of that. I show respect for the people by incurring serious danger to tell them the truth. I could just as well play bridge with you and crack stupid jokes. But I wouldn’t sit at the same table with you. You are a poor advocate of the Declaration of Independence.”—Wilhelm Reich, Listen Little Man!, Translated by Mary Boyd Higgins ([1946] New York: Farrar, Strauss, 1974): 81-2.

Andy Laties said...

By the way, "Listen, Little Man!" was written while Reich was in prison. In the late 1940s he was considered a "monster" by lots of people because of his stance in favor of sexual liberation. However if you love William Steig's books--"The Amazing Bone" for instance--then you owe a debt to Wilhelm Reich, whatever your opinion of his "monstrous" psychoanalytic theories.

Anonymous said...

Andy,

"I respect the subjectivity of every reader."

You go further than I do. Some readers and some readings, I don't respect at all. I think we agree more than we disagree. I'm sorry I don't have time to argue your definition of monstrous, though.

Anon 5:28

Andy Laties said...

We'll have to argue definitions anon, then, Anon (you-about-whom-I-have-no-biographical-info)

Kathleen Krull said...

Well before Andy kindly mentioned my book, I was loving this gossipy discussion. More dish, please. (Does that make me a bad person?)

Roger Sutton said...

Re Kathleen Krull: So, what have you heard?

Andy Laties said...

Biographical correction, per Wikipedia: Wilhelm Reich was imprisoned in 1941 but he didn't begin writing "Listen, Little Man!" until 1943. So, I was wrong: the book wasn't written in prison. (He was imprisoned again in 1956, and many of his papers and books were burned by the government. He died in prison in 1957. Society can be very cruel to authors we consider to have monstrous ideas.)

Alex Flinn said...

So we're assuming for the sake of argument that Richard is a puppy-kicker then? If he were, in fact, kicking puppies (or hosting dog-fighting matches at his apartment, for that matter), I would definitely have issues with funding that by reading his books, much as I do not deign to support a long list of performers who beat their girlfriends and wives. However, I'm perfectly okay with reading books written by people with whom I have a difference of opinion (as I do have with Richard on this subject, unless he meant that kids shouldn't ONLY be read aloud to, which I suspect is what he DOES mean, considering he is the author of "20 Minutes a Day," which is specifically about the benefits of reading aloud. In that case, I agree). If one expects an author's opinions to mesh with the reader's on every subject, one could read no books. I have always thought it admirable that Richard does speak his opinions, some of which differ from my own. Indeed, it is because he is so strong in his opinions that he was able to write young-adult novels which influenced my generation of writers, not to mention many readers. Are You in the House Alone? was not written by a timid soul.

I have less respect for the opinions of anonymous blog commenters.

Anonymous said...

Alex Flinn,

I try to judge on content, myself.

Anon 5:28

Alex Flinn said...

(Shrugs) The content didn't impress me either.

Anonymous said...

You know, I can think of any number of really snide things to say back. Not wanting to say something snide, I find it hard to come up with something that doesn't come across that way. I'm sorry you didn't like what I had to say, Alex.

Andy, I am thinking of Ezra Pound and Father Coughlin. I don't know enough about Pound to call him a monster, but I believe he was incarcerated in a mental hospital after being prosecuted for expressing his opinions. Father Coughlin seems more than just repellent to me. I think I would argue that you can use words to be monstrous. Which isn't to say that i think Card has done so. I think there's something the matter with him, but I wouldn't call him a monster.

Anon 5:28

Andy Laties said...

I think Pound became pro-Nazi and broadcast on behalf of the Axis powers from Italy during the war. I guess it was his past role as literary giant that spared him simple incarceration for treason. This reminds me of the way the U.S. Government prosecuted (under the Bush Administration) a man who was re-broadcasting Al Jazeera in the U.S. (have I got those details right?)

Treasonous speech is certainly an interesting case, I suppose. And yet in the United States this sort of thing is generally considered to be protected. Not always, obviously: during wartime it isn't.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "We must remain eternally vigilant not to suppress the expression of opinions that we loathe." But he was writing a minority opinion in a case involving anti-war pamphleteering during the First World War -- his opinion was not the majority's. As I suggested in my post above, I think my own opinion is similarly a minority opinion. I do not hold speech to be possibly monstrous per se.

Stefan Zweig in his autobiography ("World Of Yesterday") tells the astonishing tale of how Hitler privately financed the Brownshirt paramilitary using royalties earned from book sales of "Mein Kampf." Zweig knew this because at the time he was a hugely popular author -- he had information about the publishing industry as an insider. So, clearly, monstrous speech, when financially rewarded, can indeed lead to monstrous action. But I still do not think that this sort of fact is finally informative about what wise policy or social theory should be. I think that relying on a government censor to decide what's permissible speech is unwise. It's my opinion. I see that you don't agree, and the evidence I've handed you just now can of course be read in your favor. (Maybe you think that if "Mein Kampf" had been suppressed or if Hitler had received no royalties, that he would not have risen politically.)

I want everyone to have access to all the information, even if it works against me personally sometimes.

Roger Sutton said...

I think I might be to blame for the flames getting higher here; I linked the Peck discussion with the discussion about authors as monsters only because one caused the other to occur to me; I don't think anyone is suggesting nobody should buy Peck's books because of his views on education. (Admirable defense of his virtues, though, Alex.)

I appreciated that link above about Orson Scott Card--you'll remember that this very issue came up when Card won the Margaret Edwards Award--although no one denied the classic status of the Ender books (the first one, anyway), were his views on homosexuality reason to deny him a lifetime achievement award? I thought no, but he really is despicable. Readers can have it both ways, much as that sentiment might reek of Card's hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"It's my opinion. I see that you don't agree, and the evidence I've handed you just now can of course be read in your favor. "

No, not really Andy. I think we're orthogonal. You're talking about institutional action and I'm talking about personal opinion. The only reason I don't consider Card monstrous is because I think he's sick. That's my personal opinion. I wouldn't keep his books out of my library, but I certainly wouldn't have given him the Edwards award. I think it put a shiny gold star of approval on some perverted writing.

But I am wandering. I was talking about your definition of monstrous. Just because I think that words can be monstrous doesn't mean that I advocate censoring them. I think you made that connection, not me.

Roger,

I'm sorry about the flames and really sorry if anyone thinks this discussion is about Richard Peck. When I first talked about Puppy-Kickers I thought my tongue was far enough into my cheek, but evidently not.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't boycott Pullman for being an atheist but did find his bashing of C.S. Lewis objectionable. Who is he to denigrate such authors? But I try to boycott individuals whose behavior I find odious. For example, many of my friends were fired for no reason by the agent for The Kite Runner so I made a decision not to read that book or to let my book group read it. If individuals told me they really wanted to read it, I suggested they get it from the library. I was kind of grossed out when I read about William Mayne but have not sold the books I own.

Sorry to be Anonymous

Alex Flinn said...

Anon, the problem is you really don't need to worry about coming off as snide because no one knows who you are. I (and Roger, and Richard and everyone else who owns their opinions) am the one who has to worry about coming off as snide or anything else. Done talking about that now.

I'm not saying that an author's personal opinions don't influence me at all. It might help me understand their work better. I'm only saying they'd have to do something awfully bad (being a member of the KKK, for example) for me to write them off completely. However, I know a lot of authors who are very circumspect for this exact reason, so perhaps I am in the minority. Possibly, it depends on the author. Those who write opinionated books, myself included, may as well be opinionated in person because we're going to offend someone along the way anyway. Those who write nice books about bunnies baking cookies (not that there's anything wrong with that) may reasonably prefer to be perceived as nice.

Roger Sutton said...

The bunny-book people are the WORST.

Andy Laties said...

Opinionated, strong-minded, loud-mouthed authors are sometimes labelled "difficult" by their publishers.

When I was on the Children's Book Council/American Booksellers Association Joint Committee in 1989, I proposed we have Daniel Pinkwater as a speaker at the Children's Book & Author Breakfast at the 1990 ABA Convention (we were in charge of organizing this event). The other publishers and booksellers on CBC/ABA committee were non-responsive, only exchanging glances, until one publisher bluntly informed me, "He's too difficult." I protested that I'd featured Daniel at several events in Chicago the previous summer -- in particular Printers Row Bookfair -- and that he'd been delightful. But Daniel's reputation as a difficult author apparently was very firmly established among the publishers, and they wouldn't hear of trying to bring him in to speak at the Breakfast. They figured he'd make trouble somehow. (Daniel was especially famous for complaining about publishers's ineptitude at book marketing.)

It's deliciously ironic that Daniel has now become very powerful as he can make any book a huge seller by promoting it on his show on National Public Radio. All publishers are now forced to make nice to this "difficult" and opinionated author.

Literaticat said...

Hey Andy,

Though we've strayed from the original point of the post, I feel compelled to answer you.

Daniel IS a delight to work with and nice as pie. He's also a friend to animals, and as such, would never kick a puppy. Thanks for sticking up for him 19 years ago.

However, we don't "force" publishers to "make nice" just cause Daniel is on NPR sometimes (though that is a swell gig).

They are nice because Daniel is wildly creative and a brilliant writer, and he has the benefit of sheer outlastingness. Given enough time and talent, "Opinionated" becomes "Sage".

If there were people that had a problem with him many years ago, they've gotten over it or are long gone, while he and his fans are still going strong.

I guess the moral is: Authors, be as opinionated and loudmouthed as you like, if you also have talent and longevity. But don't insult the fans, and NO PUPPY KICKING!

Cheers,
Daniel's Agent

Andy Laties said...

Amen, and Hallelujah.

Andy Laties said...

Also, of course, I don't believe in the whole concept of "the difficult author"--and I'm sorry if I implied in a previous post that I perhaps supported that possible definition. I strongly believe that all authors should absolutely stand up for themselves in dealing with their publishers. Doing so--no matter what the stage of their careers--should never earn authors insulting epithets from the people working in publishing houses.

As a bookseller, I have over the years had many regular customers, some of whom I have certainly had difficulty dealing with -- but these people shouldn't be labeled by me as "difficult" customers, because if I want to be a professional bookseller I have to learn how to change myself so that I can assist these customers in achieving their reading objectives. That's the definition of my professionalism. All these customers pay my bills!

I love working with authors, and Daniel Pinkwater is one of my favorite authors. Having him participate in my programming was a life highlight for me.

Here is Daniel speaking about attempting to promote his work, back when I met him, back in the days when publishing people were still nervous about him:
“Writing books for kids is a pleasure, but the business side of it leaves a lot to be desired. So I was pretty excited when I was approached by a public relations firm, representing a major corporation…I was supposed to go around and speak in behalf of books and literacy…and pudding…I figured out what I’d say: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Eat pudding. Books are good. Eat pudding. If kids read a lot. Eat pudding. They’ll get so they can think clearly. Eat pudding. And if enough kids read and think. Eat pudding. We will have world peace. Eat pudding.”—Daniel Pinkwater, “Add Cold Water and Read,” Fish Whistle: Commentaries, Uncommontaries and Vulgar Excesses (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1989): 3-4.

Anonymous said...

back in the day I knew an author who made his publisher delete his (the author's) birth date from the copyright page because he didn't want his readers "What an old F--- I am." Now that comes under the heading of knowing too much about a writer.

Anonymous said...

Alex,

I'm sorry. I've been asleep at the switch or I would have responded earlier. It's off-topic and I won't say much more than that I disagree. It may be easy to get away with being a troll when you are anonymous. That doesn't make it right. I didn't want to come off as snide because I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. There are a lot of reasons to support anonymous comments, but as you said, done with that now.

However . . . it is sort of on topic to say that TMI about an author can spoil a book for me even if the writer hasn't kicked a single puppy. John Green is a case in point. Lovely man. Lovely books. Having met him in person, I was unable to enjoy Paper Towns because I couldn't get his voice out of my head. It was as if the main character was a thirty-something guy running around with teenagers. So unfortunate.

One last thing-- if you know I really love a certain book? Please don't tell me that the author kicks puppies, okay? I'd really rather not know.

Alex Flinn said...

Anon, Well, that's true about the TMI. However, I have to say that more often than not, if the author has a strong personality and strong writing voice, that personality comes across in the books anyway. Richard is a good example of an author I knew well through his books before ever meeting him. Chris Crutcher is another. Ditto, Nancy Werlin. Their values are in their books.

By the way, I did understand that your tongue was in your cheek with your original post. I assumed you were using the puppy analogy to denote Very Bad Conduct, and I was only saying that I thought a difference of opinion on the value of read-aloud was merely Mildly Bad Conduct, worse than placing one's fork on the wrong side of the plate, but nowhere near, say, child abuse. I apologize if I was unclear. Sometimes, my brain moves more quickly than my fingers.

Anonymous said...

to LITERATICAT: I can't tell you what a delight it was to hear(I mean read) someone describing a person (in this case Daniel Pinkwater) as "nice as pie." A wonderful old locution. If I were a writer I would want you for my agent!

Anonymous said...

I am as nice as eel pie. Andy Laties and Jennifer Laughran (Literaticat) are as nice as some kind of nice pie. I was raised and educated to believe that it is an artist's obligation not to give a rat's about how he is perceived, and to try to speak the truth. I always assumed that what was meant by "difficult" was "not docile." I used to try to sublimate my desire to kick puppies by kicking publishers, but I quit doing that because they are unteachable, and it does no good.

Daniel Pinkwater

AJ Albinak said...

I read the blog Laura linked to about Card and Turing and, although it was interesting, was mostly struck by my increased appreciation for how well everyone here maintains their cool even when disagreeing with someone else's post. Restraint is an underrated virtue. :)

As for Card, although his offensive beliefs have not made me pull his much read volumes off of my shelves, because I have loved several of his books and am able to retain them (somehow) in my mind as works of art independent from his person. But I think that I have been affected enough to have had a vague sort of drop off in interest in any of his recent (last ten years) stuff. I don't look at it and think, "Not a penny of my money will go to that awful man!", but rather, "Meh. I'm probably not interested in what he has to say."

Of course, as someone else pointed out, there is a canyon of difference between someone with awful opinions and someone who has done something physically monstrous to another human being. For instance, I would never buy an R. Kelly cd, regardless of the not guilty verdict. But I am inconsistent: I still enjoy Sean Connery movies, despite all of the 'women sometimes just need a good smack' commentary. Go know.