As a new member of the team of book bloggers who look after the Weekly Geeks meme this week was my turn to post a discussion topic (and we will not discuss how much I despise using Blogger in comparison to any other platform on the net which is why the format of the post is screwed up). In a selfish sort of way I thought I’d find out what others think of an issue that I have been pondering for a while now. In brief it is the issue of whether or not I can, or even want, to separate an author’s non-writing existence from their fictional works.
It all started because I very much enjoyed the two Susan Hill novels that I’ve read and already had the next book in her Simon Serrailler series on my audio book playlist. Then I discovered, via the author’s opinion column in a UK newspaper, that I don’t particularly like her personality or what you might call her ‘small p’ politics. I found this rant about the charity bookshops Oxfam mean-spirited and inaccurate and the fact that it included yet another misuse of the word bullying was the icing on that particular cake. I haven’t counted (obviously) but I think it is the second most over used word in the published English language these days (after the word tragedy) and because of that any real meaning the word ever had is long gone. Because this one piece made me particularly cranky I went on to read some more of her columns and realised that she is not someone I would want to have a beer with.
I have some pretty odd opinions myself and I manage to rub along quite nicely with friends and family who have wildly wrong different views to mine so it should be far easier to ignore the opinions of someone I am socially removed from such as an author. Except that I’m a big advocate of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is or, if we’re being pedantic, not putting one’s money in the mouths of people I don’t respect. So if I find out that a company uses practices I don’t agree with I make it a personal goal not to purchase products that company produces if I can possibly avoid it. I won’t pretend I actively seek out such information for all the companies I deal with but if I am making a major purchase or investment I do my best to find out about things like the company’s trade practices and the sorts of investments they make themselves. It therefore feels a bit dishonest not to follow a similar personal rule with respect to my entertainment budget (almost all of which goes to books). It just doesn’t feel right to actively provide income to someone whose opinions I find fairly repugnant. So I am done with the Simon Serailler books which is sad because I enjoyed the first two but it doesn’t hurt to have one’s principles genuinely tested every now and again (and no I’m not angling for a humanitarian award here, there’s plenty of tests I fail and it is only a couple of books after all).
The other part of the question I raised related to how people would feel if they discovered that an author they liked had committed a major crime. Like murder (as in the case of Anne Perry which I thought about after seeing a post about her at Crime Watch). Perhaps perversely I have far less trouble with this one although to be honest I’ve never been truly tested. The closest I’ve come is being a moderate fan of Jeffrey Archer’s and for the record I was completely nonplussed by the fact of his conviction and prison sentence for the crime of perverting the course of justice.
I’m pretty confident that the fact I’d rather one of my favourite authors was a murderer than have social opinions I find abhorrent is pretty screwed up. But there you have it.
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Do check out some of the other thoughtful and thought-provoking answers to this week’s topic (check the Mr Linky below the post). All the posts have been interesting to me but the one that still has me pondering is from KT at Literary Transgressions who has written a terrific responseabout her relationship with author Phillip Pullman both before and after she discovered that Pullman the man isn’t someone she likes very much.