Ever since I was aware that writers were actual living breathing people, I have heard readers talking about discovering how putrid the politics/personality/hygiene/habits of a particular writer is and deciding that they can no longer read that particular writer, or give them money by buying the books they once loved.
I always respond by pointing out that when I discovered that Knut Hamsun was a fascist, who thought Hitler was the best bloke ever, it didn’t stop me form loving his fabulous novel, Hunger. Writers are not their books!
As a writer, it freaks me to think that some people will stop reading me, not because of my books, but because of something I’ve said or done. I feel all defensive every time someone tells me they’ve stopped reading Orson Scott Card because of his homophobia. Or John Green because he supports Barack Obama. I love Elvis. Is someone not going to read me because of that? Should I shut up and keep my opinions to myself for fear of offending potential readers? But why should we writers have to shut up? We are not our books. They is independent of us. You make them yours, dear reader, when you read them.
And yet, I must admit that there are a few writers I have met and disliked so much that I have never read any of their books again.1 How is that any different? Am I being a hypocrite?
Yes, I think I am.
Why should a reader keep reading the work of someone who pisses them off? Sure some readers can make the distinction between the writer and their work. Like me still being able to read Knut Hamsun. But it sure does help that he’s dead and that I’ve never read anything but his fiction. I haven’t read his online frothing at the mouth outpouring of Hitler love. It’s a lot harder to achieve that distance with a writer whose offensive views are all over the beastly intramnets. And worse when you’ve been subject to their unpleasantness in real life.
Some readers can still manage to make that distinction between book and author, but many can’t and, really, why should they? There are so many great books out there which makes cutting your choices down a bit of a relief. I’m pretty sure there are enough books on my TBR pile right now to last me till the end of time.
I’m not going to censor myself either. Elvis haters are never going to like my work. I’m cool with that. Their loss.2
What do you lot think?