By Louise Ure
This feels a little creepy to write, just after Alafair’s post yesterday about cyber-bullying an author. But it’s a look from the other side … from the reader who thought she knew a writer’s heart and didn’t.
I found myself in an unfamiliar situation a couple of weeks ago: choosing to not read a man’s fiction because I found his personal character and politics unsavory.
I’ll leave him nameless in this blog, but you would surely know his name. He has written more than a dozen books and his work has been lauded for decades. He is revered as one of America’s preeminent crime fiction writers.
So you can imagine my anticipation when I was invited to a small private luncheon with this icon –this man whose work I have admired for longer than I’ve been writing.
And that’s where my “I know him because I know his work” rationalization crashed headlong into the reality that an author’s real voice is not always consistent with his voice on the page.
This man’s words on the page are powerful, and so deeply emotional that you would think he placed his own feet inside his characters’ shoes. In person, not so much.
While still glib in real life, he came across as untrustworthy and inauthentic; someone who doesn’t reach out for new experiences. He said, for example, that he will only travel through affluent neighborhoods because he doesn’t like to see billboards in Spanish or HIV prevention ads on bus stops. They would sully his world.
In his work, his characters care deeply about things. They are driven to find the killer, to stop the pain, to make things right in a world gone mad. In person, the less information the better.
He has no television, no radio and no computer. He reads no newspapers or any other author’s work, either in fiction or non-fiction. He prefers to sit quietly, by himself, in a dark room.
The cops in his books are not cartoonish; he creates real people with their own obsessions and weaknesses and self-doubt. His writing sings with clarity and precision.
But in real life this author thinks the cops can do no wrong and believes that torture, whether done by the police or soldiers, is justified to get a confession. “Better to torture an innocent man than to chance that one bad guy gets away,” he said at the lunch.
He called me un-American when I expressed a different point of view.
So there I was, with Famous Author’s Latest Oeuvre in hand, and I walked out without getting an autograph. I didn’t want his signature on any book in my house. And I’m considering removing his earlier works from my shelves as well, as I no longer think I can appreciate them without identifying the writing with the real life man.
This seems like such an odd fit of pique for me. While I’m perfectly comfortable not going to see a Mel Gibson movie, or finding a new favorite country singer after spotting Leann Rimes at the Republican National Convention, this is the first time that I have purposely spurned a writer of fiction because I didn’t like him personally.
(Wait a minute, come to think of it, there is one other guy, who years ago at one Bouchercon or another, invited himself to the lunch I was hosting, ordered lots of food “for the table,” then got up and left when the bill arrived. I still haven’t bought any of his books.)
But it brings me to my central question today: Do we expect the real life man to live up to the author’s voice on the page? And if you can’t stand the man behind the curtain, can you still admire the magic he conjures up?
I don’t mean that an author has to resemble their characters, or even have their same world view. There are too many good examples of the shy author who writes thrillers with daring, adventurous protagonists. Or the senior citizen whose protagonist is a hip and humorous 20-something.
I also don’t mean that every writer has to echo my own values and life experience. I guess I mean something closer to … heart. If an author’s work has depth and emotional resonance that rocks you, should you expect that to be reflected when you meet him in person? Would it be okay if he were shallow or rude or purposefully mean?
Should it even matter that I don’t like the man behind the words?
In some ways, I wish authors weren’t so “available” to us readers. In an ideal world, I’d remove both the author photo and the short bio from every book jacket. There would be no Meet the Author signings or conventions. Blogs and websites and Twitter and Facebook would be outlawed, unless they dealt strictly with a discussion of the work.
That’s why we buy books anyway, right? To get lost in a fantasy world created by someone we’ve never met. Why do we have to taint that magic by bringing the real life author — warts and all– into the equation?
Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to that lunch. Maybe I would still revere his books.
How about you ‘Rati? Do you pay any attention to the man behind the curtain?
How disappointing it must have been. This writer has obviously created his own San Simeon to protect his narrow, biased views from himself and the public. It makes me long for exposure and to place even more hope in the old saying, "the truth will out". Thanks for the post – courageous!
If a writer was as mean and self-righteous as the one you met. I'd find myself doubting the emotional truth of his books. They wouldn't resonate in the same way for me so I'd probably stop reading them.
And I'm definitely skipping Mel Gibson movies in the future.
But I'm inconsistent; I saw the Ghostwriter and the Pianist although I think Roman Polanski should be extradited and do time here. I don't know why I have one standard for writers and one for directors/screenwriters. Maybe because I have no desire to be a director/screenwriter?
Interesting post. I really had to think about this and decided I would skip an author's work if I found the author's to be a bigot, molester, etc. Why support a career like that when there are so many other deserving writers?
Interesting post. I had a discussion not long ago with someone where I said I don't read an author's bio until after I've read her/his book and even then, I don't pay much attn to it. Meanwhile my conversationmate revealed she googles authors ad nauseum before buying books.
This reminds me of how I feel about actors. I'm much more likely to believe and enjoy the performance of actresses/actors who avoid the papparazzi and gossip shows because I don't know too much about their personal lives.
Louise, how awful for you to experience such a let-down.
But you know, from what you say I highly doubt that he has no television or radio, since some of what he believes exactly parrots certain media figures' ideologies. So add "liar" to his other frailties.
How the mighty have fallen.
Louise, I'm with you. And I don't buy or read work from writers who have been jerks to my friends, either. I'm thinking of one particular guy who was a butthead to you, a while back.
And I think Karen is right, too. This guy is full of shit, in many ways. "Dark room" indeed.
Jackson Pollock was a drunk and an abuser. Ezra Pound was an Anti-Semite and a Fascist sympathizer. I've already written here about what an asshole Warren Zevon was.
OTOH, as the Dylan song goes, "you ain't him." Someone has to be awfully damn good to get away with that kind of behavior.
I often put people I admire up on a pedestal. How far they fall depends on the hypocricy quotient. The talent is still there, the novels are well written, but tainted by the flawed nature of the creator. Would avoiding them be akin to not driving through less affluent neighbourhoods? I don't know.
I think it is human nature to connect with others relationally but I do not think it is human nature to marginalize others. If we make over 60K/year we earn the top three percent of the worlds wealth. So the question becomes, 'What are we doing?
While attending a conference several years ago, I had a similar experience that still spikes my blood pressure. Nationally known figure in her field was counseling "newbie" teacher. Students (myself included) were seated at lunch table as interaction between students and teachers was advertised as highight of conference. There were SIX of us and we were not invisible. Topic of conversation between two teachers was how to get as much money as possible from the student with the least amount of effort. Guru assured newbie it was worth the investment to teach with a continuous loop video as students would be content when a hand was placed on their shoulder. This was one of many tidbits. Newbie took notes!! My instinct was to hand them my wallet — and ask them to help themselves. To this day I regret I didn't. Instead I went home and donated a print of guru's work to charity and avoided all contact with both women. Both have continually successful nationally recognized careers.
Interesting. On one hand people have a right to live they way they want to and to hell what other people think of them; let them live their own lives their way, too. Too often we've gotten into conflicts of our making thinking we can judge how other people think and do.
On the other hand, we're human and we all react to people in our own way. Three authors come to mind in my experiences. One, although I read this author's first book out of curiosity, I won't read any more of her works because of seeing her in a panel at LCC. Second author, I visited her blog and was completely turned off by her politics and though I don't like the person, I still read her works. (it's why I say leave politics and other personal opinions off of a blog intended to promote the author not the person). The third author, I dislike the beliefs of and I will never read a word and have removed the books.
So what is it? The degree of perceived personal slight? Does art transcend human nature? Somebody loves the people we despise so they have worth; everyone does. But we also have choice and I think ultimately that is the answer. Life's too short; have an opinion and move along being the best person you can be because that's is all for which we are responsible.
Dang! You got me all philosophical this morning and I haven't even finished my coffee. This doesn't bode well. 🙂 Good post!
Ah, the great separate the artist from their work debate. We have this all the time at home. I have to admit, a situation like the one you describe would absolutely turn me off. I know the world and I don't see eye to eye on some things. I know many of my friends and I have different viewpoints. But I respect everyone's right to their opinion, and for him to call you names because he didn't agree with you makes him the bully and the ass. I'd stop reading him too if I knew who he was : )
Reading has changed for me since I became a writer. I used to avoid jacket photos of authors as much as possible, because even seeing what my favorites looked like could alter my perception of the words. All that's gone now. I have a hard time separating people from their work.
Most importantly, I never discuss politics, and try to avoid religion with my readers and online. Who cares what I think? My books are what's important, not my opinions. At least that's how I see it. I wish more people felt the same.
Thanks to all you early bird posters.
Grace, I was originally thinking of him as a troll, but your San Simeon comparison is even better.
Shizuka, Debbie and PK among others seem to live with the inconsistency of sometimes separating the artist from his work and sometimes damning his work for personal reasons. That's where I wound up, too, but unsure how I make those distinctions.
Vicky, the guy's work is deserving but I'll leave that support up to others. (And Shizuka, I'd have to put Polanski in that list, too.)
JB Lynn, you don't read the bio until you read the book? Does it then influence your perception of the work?
Karen, he may well be a liar. He was up his own ass in so many ways, it wouldn't surprise me.
Cornelia, I'd almost forgotten that jerk. Forgotten, I said. Not forgiven.
JD, I started to add that perspective to the blog post but it was just too damn mature and reasonable.
BL? A continuous loop tape and a hand on the shoulder? Good Lord. I hope that there was some way, even as a student, that you let them know the depth of their hypocrisy.
JT, "Who cares what I think? My books are what's important." That's the world I want to live in, but our ever increasing access to authors makes it difficult.
Whoa. I'm really wondering who this guy is. And as for the other guy, ordering food for the table and then walking away? Who ARE these people?
I too would have a hard time enjoying a book by someone whose views I despised. As a reader, I want to follow characters whom I feel at least some sympathy toward. You can't feel that sympathy if you keep hearing the author's real voice behind the dialogue.
Hm, I have a suspicion I know who you're talking about, because I know many booksellers and readers who've had the same reaction to him in person. If not, there are two of them!
I'm one of those who can't enjoy a book if I know the person behind it is a bit of an arse. I've even stopped reading books mid-way after enountering such people. Wrong, I know – the author is not the book – but I can't help it.
I know exactly who this is, because I used to read his stuff until I just could not any longer. And stopped paying attention to him and his books until I came back into the loop, read up on the latest about the man and the books and said "nah, life's too short."
Life is too short to try to make ourselves enjoy works by authors we don't like, respect, etc. Plenty of books and movies to go around, no need to force oneself to enjoy an artist who we really don't enjoy.
I haven't read Julie Powell's follow-up to her Julia Child year either (for similar "I just don't like you anymore" reasons). But I do have Polanski's Ghost Writer in my queue (go figure – I can't forgive his personal life but I can't stop loving Chinatown either).
"You can't feel that sympathy if you keep hearing the author's real voice behind the dialogue." You nailed it, Tess. And Zoe, I fear that there are more than two of them out there.
MJ, I think Shizuka posed the question for us correctly on the distinction between our view of musicians/directors/actors versus writers. "Is it because I don't aspire to be a musician/director/actor?"
I have a hard time reading authors when I know they've sacrificed others to advance their careers. Even though I love Kerouac, I know that he walked out on his wife and daughter and didn't see his daughter until she was an adult. He looked at her hands and said, "You've got my hands, I guess you're my daughter." And I remember reading John Steinbeck's diary, coming across a passage where he said there were issues with his son at school – the boy was waiting around after school for "his father to pick him up," but John hadn't even been part of his life. Steinbeck's attitude was like, "what's wrong with this kid?"
Because we have so little time to balance writing, day job and family, our family usually suffers. I've seen so many examples of famous, successful men who share no relationship with their children. I lose respect for the authors who fall into this category. A person is more important than a career, if you ask me. Or it's better to take a slower route–juggle if you have to. If you've made the commitment to raise kids, then raise them.
And that's my soap-box speech for the day.
You asked. "JB Lynn, you don't read the bio until you read the book? Does it then influence your perception of the work?" and the answer is yes, it does. For example, I recently read a book, set in NJ where a character gets out of his car and pumps his gas. It irritated me a little because I live in NJ and know it's illegal to pump your own gas here, but I understand that Self Serve is the norm in 48 other states, so I mentally brushed it off. BUT when I saw the writer is a life-long NJ resident, it soured my whole opinion of the book. Petty of me? You bet, lol.
On the one hand, there are so many wonderful books by good writers out there, perhaps you don't need this man's works in your life. And now that you've met him, can you read anything of his and be drawn into the story the same way, or will that naggy little voice in your head keep telling you, "But that's not what the author really feels"?
On the other hand, I remember the scene in "Amadeus" where Mozart says, "I am a vulgar man. But my music is not vulgar." If you enjoyed this author's work so much prior to meeting him, and you will truly miss his characters, hmm… maybe you just buy his books at the used bookstore, or the library sale.
Louise, you always pose such profound questions that cause me to look into myself to see what is there. For years I have decided that a way I could express my views, my values, is with my pennies. So I refused to have someone whose values I loathed make one penny off me. There are restaurants I will not patronize, movies I will not see, and books I will not read and products I will not buy. On the other hand, I purchase items because I do like the values my pennies reinforce. I give money to kids selling candy and tell them to give the chocolate bar to the next person coming out the door, because their efforts deserve my pennies.
Thanks for speaking up, but it is a real surprise that you are un American. ha! I wouldn't want to spend a day in his America.
Great post, Louise. Something to think about. Yes, I would have reacted in the same way had I been at that luncheon. This person sounds as if he had NO personal charm whatsoever. As you know, sometimes charm carries the day. But jeez, this guy sounds wierd. I don't know that I'd want to read a writer who is this 'wierd' in reality. Probably not. Sounds as if he's an expert at pulling the wool over people's eyes in his written work. Hate to think there are that many like him out there – but there probably are. We just haven't met them.
Luckily for me, the writers I have met have all lived up to the good impressions I've formed of them through their writing.
I have a friend who works in a bookstore and met a famous writer one day when he came to do a signing. She was SO turned off by his attitude that she stopped reading his work and never recommends his books anymore.. Influenced by what she told me (I trust her judgement) I don't read his work either. So, there is that effect as well.
I don't read Dennis Lehane, firstly because after he stopped writing his series and got into the Big Stand Alone books, I found his writing style insufferable, but also because of the impression I have of his being someone I wouldn't want to spend any time with. So why should I bother with his work?
But Stephen, I know how much you revere Kerouac! Maybe you're borrowing Gayle's Mozart quote: "I am a vulgar man, but my music in not vulgar." Kerouac and Mozart might both be worth overlooking their personal proclivities.
JB Lynn, yep, that would be enough to get me to doubt the author's authenticity.
And Judy, you've summed up the epitome of "putting your money where your mouth is."
Yvette, I'm only one reader and my loss of revenue to the Famous Author is minuscule. But that asshole in the bookstore? Pissing off a bookseller who has much more influence on sales? Just stupid.
Yvette, I've actually spent some time with Dennis Lehane, and he's a good guy. Very funny. Great storyteller.
There have been few more detestable human beings than Richard Wagner, yet he wrote some of my favorite music. Notice I didn't say he was one of my favorite composers.
Writers are always told when receiving rejections to understand it was the writing that was rejected, not the person. The two are separate.
That being said, I don't think being a genius entitles anyone to be an asshole. Call them on it, or don't spend time with them. They're writing is separate.Wagner's dead, so I can listen to his music without putting food on his table. I don't know that I would grant a contemporary author I detested personally the same latitude ,no matter how much I enjoyed his writing. I'd cruise a used book store if I felt I had to read him.
Good question. Before I took Nobel Literature class and found out many things about authors, I didn't give it a thought. The question came up about how people don't separate the author from their works. That the voice is the authors voice and not the character. Most of the time I can separate the author from the character and it doesn't bother me. But If I find an authors personal or political values discomforting or extreme, I have a hard time buying / reading their books. I just can't support some of them. So understand completely what you mean. There are some writers I used to enjoy – now can't. So yes, I do pay attention to the man/woman behind the curtain.
on a side note – look forward to meeting you at Bouchercon.
I think there's a slight difference between writers and other works, just because of how personal of a relationship there is.
Movies only take up a few hours of your time; reading a book can take days or weeks. Most art is about the message, first and foremost; in stories, the story comes first, and it's about the writing. But most of all, in fiction more than other things, it's a relationship.
In every other medium, you really are hearing it, seeing it, smelling it. In fiction, it's your imagination. Imagination is far more powerful than real life. Something a friend once told me: to torture someone, bring a banana, a toy train, and a lightbulb into a room, tell the person you're going to torture them, and get 'called away unexpectedly'. Almost always, they will be confessing the second you arrive, driven mad by the fear of their imagination.
When I read a book, I trust that the ending will be satisfying, that if the hero doesn't win they at least gave it a good go, that I will be inspired to be like them, that the hero and heroine will fall in love, the mystery will be solved, the ghost will pop out of nowhere, whatever. If I wouldn't trust that person in real life, why would I trust them with my imagination?
Dana, I like the "Wagner's dead" approach. Famous Author is older than I am. Maybe all I have to do is outlast him, then I can read him again.
Eika, I'm still thinking about toy trains, bananas and light bulbs.
To Robin, and all my other Murderati pals who will be at Bouchercon.
I'm hoping to be there, but it will be difficult for me. I'm still so vulnerable after Bruce's death and it's tough to be in social situations.
If I do get up the courage to attend, treat me like glass, please. Either look right through me or put your arms gently around me.
And if I can't get up the courage, know that my heart and my thoughts are with you.
I would agree with you if it was something horrible like racism. But if it's just differnt politcal views (I don't know if Leann Rhimes actually said anything or was just there) that seems a little harsh.
There was one thing I disagree with. You said :
"To get lost in a fantasy world created by someone we’ve never met."
I would say it makes no difference if we know the person or not. I'm sure you have tons of writer friends and you still read their books with joy. I know I would.
You're right, Rdom, the fact that the fantasy world is created "by someone we've never met" is irrelevant. It's the fantasy world that counts.
But hoo boy, I'd put torture right up there with racism as something I won't countenance.
You know what, Louise, it does matter to me. And I don't feel bad about it.
There are so many wonderful writers — who are also wonderful people — (even if we don't agree politically or whatever) that I'd rather support them than someone who really rubs me the wrong way.
I don't have a lot of money. I want to spend my discretionary dollars on people I like or care about. It's called spending with intent.
I've thought about this all morning–great conversation, Louise–trying to figure out what my own guidelines are besides "gut instinct" and "knee-jerk reactions" and I'm not entirely sure how I decide. If I have any consistency at all, it's this: if I'm reading purely for my own entertainment purposes, then someone being insufferable or a criminal is a definite "do not buy." (I'm with Stephen on people who sacrifice their children or family.) However, if I'm reading for educational purposes–whether it's the subject matter or the theme or the style/craft that I want to learn–then I ignore who authored it and look to the work. I don't care what anyone's politics or religion or idiot statements are. We have a two party system for a good reason and lord knows there are plenty of idiots on both sides to go around, and we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech, so if the work itself is of value, I want to learn why.
I'm like JB — I almost never read author bios, even after reading their books and for many many years–until I was published–was hardly aware of who authored what, save for whatever got pounded into me in grad school. The work must stand on its own.
I love this post, Louise and I applaud you for writing it.
I have very recently said that I'm just not wasting my money on books by people I find offensive, rude and/or mean.
I do realize that may be viewed as childish by some. I don't care. It's my money, to be spent how I choose. But more than that – it's my own sense of ethics I'm supporting. That my little bit of money is not going into the pockets of a jackass is really beside the point. As I get older and realize I'll never be able to read all the books I want to read, screening out the asses is a good way to start slimming the list. Mostly, I guess – I'm just not interested in wasting my time.
And to call someone un-American because their views differ? Lord A Mercy. How did you keep yourself from punching this arrogant ass in the nose?! Tough to do, wasn't it? I'll stop now. I feel a rant coming on , , , ,
I think I come from the I-Don't-Want-To-Know camp. If a book can give me beautiful or profound images to take away with me, if there is a character that will stay with me forever, if I find myself rereading passages and reveling in the words……..then the book has done it's job. I don't really want to know anything about the author. Sorry, guys.
I had this discussion back in 1981 when I was at dinner with Carol Kane, Matthew Modine and Diane Keaton. Carol was disgusted with all of the gossip going around about her and Woody Harrelson. Diane was grousing about having no privacy with Warren Beatty. (Mathew was telling a graphic story of his wife's birth experience in a London hospital which was TMI at a dinner.) Anyway. I told them that I didn't give a shit about their personal lives or who Don Johnson was cheating on with Melanie Griffith. I want actors to act. I want to see some good acting up there on the screen and then I didn't want to read or hear another thing about them. They all applauded.
Writers write. Actors act. Let it be. I don't want to know what a writer is like. I want to savor a good story.
No newspapers? No TV? No computer? Whatever. Just shut up and write. If you write anything that is personally noxious to me I'll throw your book in the trash and pick up another one. Like there aren't enough good writers out there to waste my time being disgusted? So. Don't tell me anything about yourselves.
But DO post your dog pictures.
I am semi-kidding, but I really mean it about not wanting to know what an author "believes" in. I want to know what her character believes in. That's enough…. and thank you all for staying away from politics and religion and women's rights and immigration in your Murderati posts…..
but it's ok if Toni wants to talk about her football….who's man enough to stop her anyway?! ; )
Louise, it would be very nice to give you a big, gentle hug at Bcon. I've never been before and I'm going by myself. And, like the launch of a debut novel, I'm launching my newsletter so I'm nervous. And excited. But mostly nervous. Maybe we could lend each other some support. 🙂
<<I also don't mean that every writer has to echo my own values and life experience.>>
With all due respect, Louise, I think you mean exactly that. When this author displayed a world view opposite your own, you took an immediate dislike to him, and talked about removing his books from your home. I see this political elitism all the time in the blogs. Most of the comments above are good examples. It is a major turnoff, and the practitioners of this elitism risk losing a great deal to protect themselves inside their little cocoons.
Some of my favorite authors (the one you mentioned included–I know who he is) have political views quite unlike my own, but you know what? I don't care. And really, neither should you. An author (yourself and myself included) should live or die on the strength of his or her work. Period.
What they think about in their spare time or how they vote matters not.
Think of it this way. People who have read your blog today, who may just hold the same political beliefs as the author you mentioned, could shut themselves totally off from your work, now that they see which side of the fence you prefer, and especially after seeing how you regard people who prefer the other side.
Cutting yourself off from writers you disagree with politically is never a good idea. Cutting yourself off from half of your own potential readership is a worse one.
"but it's ok if Toni wants to talk about her football….who's man enough to stop her anyway?! ; )"
okay, that totally made my day.
Who it is who is it who is it?
I guess I have been lucky as all the authors I've had the privilege to meet and spend time with have always been really nice.
"With all due respect, Louise, I think you mean exactly that. When this author displayed a world view opposite your own, you took an immediate dislike to him, and talked about removing his books from your home."
I think it was at least as much in the way the person expressed themselves (the "anti-American" slur for example) as the views themselves.
"Cutting yourself off from half of your own potential readership is a worse one."
So don't express, however mildly an opinion different from "half your potential readership" because you might alienate them, but Louise shouldn't be alienated by someone who expressed their opinion, including an endorsement of torture with a disregard of the consequences of torturing the innocent, in the most offensive way possible?
Curious double standard there.
I won't buy books written by people I think are jerks. Being a jerk has nothing to do with religion or politics. Like the guy who ordered food and stuck you with the bill, he'd be on my shit-list for quite sometime.
I rarely discuss politics or religion. I have been known, on occasion, to make a political comment but try to be mindful of the audience. (I worked in the California State Legislature for 13 years. Avoiding politics all together when so many of my good friends still work in the building would be impossible.) Most people who have read my blogs know I'm Catholic because I talked about my research for my Seven Deadly Sins books; no one seemed to have a problem with it because I think I was polite and it was in context with my conversation. But being Catholic and going to church doesn't mean I won't read a book written by an atheist or a someone who's Jewish. That would be silly.
I think there is a double standard, however. For years I've read criticisms and snide remarks about our former president on this blog, some veiled and some blatant. If I wrote something critical about our current president, I suspect I would be vilified. I wouldn't stop listening to a singer or reading an author or watching an actor because they made a public political statement I didn't agree with, regardless of political party. I have a lot of friends on both sides of the political aisle. Having a different opinion or even a different worldview doesn't mean I can't appreciate what they create.
For the record, I've disagreed with Louise on many things, but she's a terrific writer and I've bought her books in the past, and plan to buy future books.
Ditto what Allison said.
Allison, dear, anyone who vilifies you will have to answer to me.
But likewise, anyone who calls me "un-American" for my opinions, and who does it to my face, had also better have his damn health insurance paid up.
JD–not a double standard at all. Any author who reveals his/her political bias in a blog (where I feel it is inappropriate) risks getting the same response that this unnamed author got from Louise when he revealed his views over lunch. The lunch, I believe, is a far more proper place to talk politics. Of course, you don't have to like what the other guy says, nor do you have to like the way he says it, but when you bring it to a crime fiction blog, where it doesn't belong, then yes, you do run the risk of someone responding to it as Louise responded to this author. You run the risk of that person excising your books from his/her shelves.
Louise your command of words is powerful, both in your comment about the con and in that of your office space comment regarding a tuner and strings. I too have a Bruce. He's my everything. Your pain is tangible and my hug although absent in person is with you in spirit.
Speaking of criminals Toni, entertainment purposes…how do we stop them from playing Gary Glitter at the games? 😀
When we have this discussion in our house, my husband often says, "The movie should be made (book written) and nobody should go see it.
My characters don't necessarily share my views and I don't consider myself a hypocrite because it's fiction. Perhaps this author feels the same way. On the other hand, if somebody finds my story, characters…offensive, put the book down. Really I don't mind. I just hope to never personally put a person down and leave them feeling as you did Louise as you sat at that dinner.
Louise, before you donate the books, consider how many fans might be created. Keeping them in your house might be the best course of action!
Finally, as for alienating a potential book buyer, stand up for your beliefs with respect, not with an eye to the bottom line. We leave money behind…respect follows us.
Debbie, I like the cut of your jib.
Toni, I like your distinction between personal reading and educational reading.
And Pari and Kaye, it sounds like both of you practice "spending with intent." (It does seem the most likely path to enjoying your spending.)
Anon, once again your ballsy-ness makes me laugh. "But DO post your dog pictures?"
PK and Debbie, your comments are so sweet and thoughtful. Thank you.
One last thing: ever notice how no one ever tells Brad Thor or Tom Clancy "you should just shut up about your politics, you might alienate some readers?"
Okay, I'll shut up now.
Um thanks Dusty…blush.
Torture an innocent man in hopes that some other guy who has done wrong won't get away… Doing the former doesn't ensure the latter. It also goes against some of the reasoning behind our legal protections for the accused: Those protections are there to protect ALL of us, especially the innocent, from potential abuse. But that isn't my main point.
Writers are private people who are entitled to their private opinions and the expression thereof. They can do that at political rallies or private dinners or in the voting booth. What is available to a non writer should be available to the writer. And the dialogue that can ensue is, I feel, very important.
That said, writers are also public people who are artists who are entertainers. As such, they depend upon a willing and generous public. Why in heaven's name would an author use a forum about writing, with a semi captive audience, to put down immigrants, AIDS victims, and anyone who disagreed with him? Whether I agree with him or not is not the question for me because this isn't so much about content as it is about the fellow's time, place, and manner. Poor judgment on his part, I'd say.
Mike, you and I are not as far apart as you think. I, too, have always believed that the work should stand on its own and the character and opinion of the author should make no difference at all to an appreciation of the work. That's why I was so stunned by my visceral response to what I saw as his inauthenticity and incivility at the lunch.
I don't see it as political elitism. I see it as choosing not to spend my time or money with people I don't like or who I consider to be dangerous and evil. And if folks choose not to buy my books for it, so be it. I started this adventure writing for myself and will continue to do so. I don't speak pander.
(And thank you, JD.)
Allison, you're absolutely right about the double standard. Now, what was it exactly that you've disagreed with me on …?
Debbie wrote: "We leave money behind but respect follows us." I like that.
Well said, Sandy.
I don't fault a writer for disagreeing with me. But neither am I at fault for then choosing not to buy his books.
Thor, Clancy, and Louise aside, I revert to my original premise, which is not that people should shut up about their politics, but rather that what an author puts on the page is far more important than how he marks his voting ballot. And if he chooses to reveal his political views, he runs the risk of people thinking (wrongly, IMO) that his politics are more important than his work.
Point taken, Louise. It's unfortunate the guy was so rude to you, but as I said, I know who you mean, and I will continue to buy his books as long as they interest me. I may disagree with him personally, and if he had insulted me as he apparently did you, I might feel as you do. But for now, what goes on between the covers of his books is far more important than what goes on between his ears.
Thanks Dusty 🙂 And for the record, people who call others names like "Un-American" are jerks. I love political debates, and when it gets down to name-calling you know the other person doesn't have a good argument or can't back up what they're saying.
You're most welcome, Allison.
See, I'm old fashioned on some ways. And one of those ways is that there are some insults that no man (or woman) should be required to bear. Call me a liberal, call me a moonbat. even call me an Obama-bot and I'll laugh n your face or give you back one 'wingnut' for every "moonbat."
But the person who questions my patriotism…well, let's just say we all have our own version of the "n-word", the insult that will not be borne. That's mine.
Aw Louise, *hugs* both now and irl should you decide to come to bcon. One step at a time, dear, each one getting a little bit easier.
@pk, I'm going alone as well and admit to a bit of nerves which is why I volunteered to help out, so I'm not hugging the walls. I've heard most of the folks don't bite. 🙂 Mayhaps we'll get a chance to meet.
Dusty, you're exactly right. Why does it seem that only certain types of political leanings are meant to keep their mouth shut?
Excuse me. I meant to say "those with certain types of political leanings".
Must be time for bed.
Not enough time to read all the good books in the world– why spend it on those written by slime?
When I read a book I love, I also fall a little bit in love with the author. Or my admittedly inaccurate and incomplete view of what kind of person *I think* could have written the book that touched my imagination and emotions. I think we all do, to some extent. Sure, it's unrealistic, I know that. But I do put certain authors up on a pedestal and "expect" them to be a certain way in real life. I've been pleasantly surprised by the ones I've met, as they turn out to be even nicer or funnier and more generous and patient than I could have imagined.
Louise, I didn't get the impression that you were necessarily condemning the man just for his politics, but for the huge disconnect between what you had always imagined to be the kind of person he was and the reality. Which, frankly, didn't sound at all admirable. But I think his politics are beside the point. It's the hypocrisy that would bother me. Sort of like if I found out my favourite romance writer had just been indicted for the suspected poisoning deaths of her last three husbands. That would tend to reflect badly on my reading experience.
On the other hand, I read books where I can tell the author's political/social/whatever views are different from mine. I choose to ignore that because I enjoy the fiction they've written. But it's obvious. They're not hiding anything, deliberately or otherwise. I think it's the betrayal of finding out something completely different from what you expected that is a game changer. For me, anyway.
Is that unfair? Well, sure. Who said life was fair? And yeah, if someone is an ass or is mean to me or someone I care about, they're on my shit list. I often buy books to support other writers, especially new ones, when I know darn well I'm never going to read them. I have no problem at all NOT buying books, even ones I might enjoy, as a demonstration of lack of support.
I'm having the opposite problem right now. There are several new-to-me writers I've come to "know" on the internet and I'm afraid to read their books. Even though I've purchased the books. I don't want to find out I might not enjoy their writing. Which is silly, because all I "know" of them IS their writing (on the internet), but there you have it.
Personality of the writer shouldn't matter. But to me, it does.
KD, you're right. My reaction was to much more than politics. Although, like Dusty, that "un-American" comment grated.
And thank you everybody, no matter which side of the discussion, for joining in today.
Hope to see you at B'con. XOXO
I think I'm likely to care more about what's on the page than who the author is or how they act in person, but the main reason for that is my "public" persona (read: me as teacher) is probably more of a supreme asshole than most of you expect I could be. The reason? The VAST majority of my students respond with self-discipline, a snide remark of their own to keep me on my toes, and more of a spine instead of less. As such, it's grown on me, and now I know my personality in even its most docile form can really grate on peoples' nerves, because I am unabashedly blunt; it seems the most genuine way to be with people. Tact, yes, when absolutely necessary, but blunt for the most part to get it in the open and available for discussion (whatever "it" may happen to be).
At the same time, I am smart enough to know that there will be people completely put out and turned off by it, and I present that side of my nature at my own risk of exactly that. It's a trade-off for me. So if I were to royally piss someone off (you guys included, though I hope I never do), I would totally understand that someone responding the way Louise did. Louise, the guy was an asshole—and trust me, I know from assholes, I am one—so no one should fault you for your own personal response.
By the same token, though, no one should fault another reader for completely overlooking that writer's attitude, callous behavior, or politics that may be different from their own, if all the reader cares about is a good yarn. I have bought and read, and will continue to do so, the works of many writers whose politics are completely contrary to mine. Even when their politics creep (okay, sometimes ROMP) onto the page, I try to roll my eyes and move on if I'm even taken out of the story enough to acknowledge with an eye roll. The only time I want to scream is when their politics are so glaringly obvious, and create a character who is so unrealistically perfect BECAUSE of that character's association with the same politics, that I can't read for gagging on my suspension of disbelief. And yet some of those same writers I've met in person and think they are wonderful people, personal politics notwithstanding, because having a different view, even one I may think is naive, narrow-minded, or even hair-brained, doesn't make someone any less of a good person. This guy's politics didn't make him an asshole. The fact he treated you the way an asshole would made him an asshole. It's his choice, and he made it. Others will still buy his books, and shouldn't receive any criticism for doing so (though they will, from people whose politics are different…admit it).
I personally don't think you should shun his writing because of his political views either. You are a mature enough adult to be able to look past his views on torture and immigration if you like his books enough, because he has a right to his opinion just as you do, so I don't think that should be your reason for avoiding his work. But is it understandable to avoid his work because, upon hearing your opinion, he treated you without equal respect and instead claimed you were un-American? Sure. He made it personal. Had the two of you been able to have a mature discussion on the reasons you felt differently about said issues, it might have been different. Instead, he made it about you personally, and that was an asshole thing to do.
Wow what a great post.
Louise I am really sorry that you had to put up with someone treating you, or anyone else, this way. Talent is no excuse for being a jerk, though history has shown that many talented people were jerks.
The unamerican comment is something that puts me over the edge everytime I hear someone say it. Funny thing is, it usually comes from someone who have done little to nothing to serve this country, but has spent most of their working life feeding at the public trough.
But….and here it comes…..I don't let an author, actor, or any other artist's personal life influnce my choices in what I read or see. As it happens, at work today a friend and I were discussing a recent news story about a poll showing former president Bill Clinton being the most popular politician in the country. And of course, the issue of his personal life came up. To which I replied, that I didn't care what an employee did in their personal life, as long as they did the job I hired them to do……that applies to presidents, authors or actors. But no matter how great an employee is, you don't get to be a jerk to the customer.
Jake, I knew that was your comment even before I read your signature. Bless you for your bluntness.
And Doug, I aspire to your maturity.
Louise, so does that mean I have that oh-so-sought-after quality in a writer, a "distinct voice"??? lol
Jake, oh yeah.
I don't mind a difference of opinion on religion, politics, whatever. I have fairly strongly held beliefs myself. But when someone is rude about it? That's a whole 'nother thing.
There are authors I've met at the shop whose books I simply overlook when people ask for recommendations simply because they've been rude. There's no reason to be rude to fans, customers, booksellers, media escorts, anyone who's helped an author reach whatever status he or she might have.
And there are good, solid authors who are kind, even when they disagree with someone. I'm much more likely to point my customers in those authors' directions rather than the unpleasant ones. Fortunately, I've met very few of the yucky kind, which makes my job quite agreeable.
See many of you in a couple of days!
Okay guys, I've met Jake. Had an actual conversation with him. He is not an asshole, supreme or otherwise. Yeah, I can see him being blunt. So am I. Whole different thing. In my book, Jake, you're a stand up no-bullshit guy. We need more teachers like you.
Um, not that you're actually IN my book. Figure of speech.
And I should be in bed but I'm sitting here wiping away the occasional tear, completely awed by the heroic efforts in Chile.
Me too KD. And I continue to be awed by all of you.
You're right Louise, torture is up there with racism. Thank you for writing this post today. It's good to get us thinking.