Once long ago my boyfriend at the time and his buddies had a conversation along the lines of, “nobody ever talks about all the great things Hitler did.” They were frustrated (in the way that young men who feel they are Very Smart and Know Better Than The Ignorant Masses often are) that popular culture didn’t give old Adolf a chance, just wrote him off as a monster. But the fact is whatever arguable good he did for Germany (I’m throwing up in my mouth typing that) it’s vastly overshadowed by things like, you know, hate crimes perpetrated against millions. As many argue: rightly so.
An article popped up Friday on Tor.com regarding how readers deal with the work of authors whose personal, political or moral views drastically differ from their own – avoid the books entirely? Read and ignore it? Take it on and case-by-case basis? There’s no consensus in the comments and I’m not sure where I fall either.
I know there are authors whose books I won’t buy or read or talk about, for various reasons. Some because I don’t think much of their writing, but some admittedly because I am so infuriated by them as people (separate from their writer-life) that I can’t bear to give them even a tiny bit of my money. With the wealth of information available these days, it’s easier than ever for readers to encounter authors’ personal opinions and either support or boycott their work because of it.
One of the authors that was brought up a lot in the comments is Orson Scott Card and I admit to having similar love/hate feelings about him. On the one hand, Ender’s Game is fabulous. Plus he’s a Browncoat and very friendly to that crowd. But 99% percent of the time when he opens his mouth my blood boils. Do I offer my tacit support to his unconscionable (to me) beliefs by buying or borrowing or recommending his work? I’d like the answer to be no, but I think that’s a lie.
The problem for me – the complication that makes it not black and white and easy – is authors, like Card, whose yucky opinions I don’t find out about until after I’ve fallen in love with their work. Card, I suppose, is not so hard to give up because I read him mostly when I was younger and not currently or even recently. But what would I do if I found out Diana Gabaldon was a gigantic bigot? Or David Mitchell hated women? Or the person who wrote the Sheep In a Jeep series (which I unabashedly love, despite not being able to remember her name) was an animal abuser?
Of course I would like to take a firm stand and quit such authors cold-turkey, toss their books in the garbage and find other authors, better authors, who didn’t make me feel gross for liking them. But it’s never that easy. The influence of their writing can’t be flushed away as simply as the physical texts. Maybe I wouldn’t publicly include them in my list of “writers who shaped me,” but they’d be there just the same.
I guess I don’t know where I stand. I’m just hoping no one drops a bomb on my life and outs Diana before I have a chance to read Echo!
(Maybe I have no room to talk since I dated someone who thought Hitler was an OK guy underneath all that messy Holocaust stuff. Ugh. I need a shower.)