Weekend Reads #26: Harmony With Authors

Weekend Reads is a weekly discussion on a variety of topics. At the end of the post, I’ll include what I plan to read on the weekend.

The question/topic for this weekend:

Does an author’s private life and views matter to you? Do they determine whether or not you will read or purchase the author’s work?

I’m supposed to be writing a myth on why we are born and die but I don’t like any of my ideas (one involves Albert Einstein and a gaping chasm of energy that somehow ties to ghosts on the internet…what?) so I’ve decided to do a Weekend Reads instead since I forgot to do it earlier today.

This weekend’s topic is one that has been on my mind for quite some time, especially now that I’m reading H. Rider Haggard’s She. Basically, I’m asking do you have to like who an author is and agree with his/her views to read, purchase, or enjoy his/her work.

The question first popped in my head when I started watching bookish videos on YouTube. Many times readers would say they will no longer read or purchase books by a particular author because of the author’s views (sometimes not expressed in his work) or what the author has done in his personal life. I’m not against these actions because it’s a small way of taking a stance against something one doesn’t agree with, however, what confuses me is when a reader would take issue against a story, or author, they perceive as endorsing something negative — say, bullying — and decide to no longer read or purchase books by the author who wrote that story but still continue to read and purchase books by other authors of whom it’s been said to have engaged in similar activities — say, Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments series (it’s often said that she’s a bully).

It’s possible that the readers are unaware of the private lives of their other authors which is why they continue to read books by authors who engage in actions that they’re against, but still, it confused me. As for me, I really don’t give a shit what these authors get up to. I read a story because I want to and if it’s well written and engaging, it will be hard to prevent myself from enjoying it simply because the author is a horrible person. The only example I can give of me exercising judgement on an author via his book is when I returned to the store James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces a day after purchasing it because my friend told me that Frey lied about his experience so most of the book is a lie though it’s marketed as a memoir.

At the time, I felt justified in returning the book but about an hour or so later, after I’d mulled over my actions, I thought I reacted very stupidly. First of all, I had Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works, which was revealed to contain fabricated quotes but I didn’t bother returning it; and second, I enjoyed reading Frey’s book. If I enjoyed it, I see no reason to return it. Plus, if I were to stop reading books because of the author’s views and actions, then I’d have to avoid just about all commonly classified “classic” literature including some contemporaries because many of those authors are racist asses, which leads me to…

What I’m reading this weekend:

I’m continuing with She, which, though a short book, is proving impossible to complete because of its immense boringness. Piggybacking on the topic above, Haggard is racist and believes that all Africans are savages and all White, British people are civil, or so it seems thus far in this book. I read the introduction and it just about says the same. Despite such negative views, I continue reading and I’m not even angry. But I am frustrated. The story is good and really interesting but it’s so friggin boring! OMG! I try reading it on the train to work and it puts me to sleep every time, even on mornings when I feel bright and sprightly. I’ve considered DNF’ing this book but I really want to complete it, see how it ends. I’ll sometimes read National Geographic’s Strange But True special issue to wake myself up.

Well, what are you reading, or have been reading, this weekend? And if you’d like to weigh in on the topic above, go right ahead.
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22 thoughts on “Weekend Reads #26: Harmony With Authors

  1. Pingback: 2015 End of Year Survey | Zezee with Books

  2. Personally, I always rate a book on its own merits. So, yes, I’ll read books by racists, homophobes and generally awful people- and I don’t feel guilty about enjoying it. Conversely, I can read a book by a person I respect and like, but still not enjoy it (although I do feel bad about that). I get the impression that there’s this sense of moral obligation out there about liking the author as much as the book, but I just don’t tend to think of it that way- I guess I read too much Roland Barthes at uni.

    Sadly I didn’t have any time to read *any* books this weekend 😦

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    • Yes, it does seem to be an obligation among some readers to also like the author. I keep saying I will read on of Barthes’ books and have yet to do so. There are a few at my job that I can borrow but I keep thinking they will be boring.
      Aww well, it’s good to take a break sometime. I didn’t read much either. I got hooked on one of those silly but addicting games called Cooking Fever. I just can’t stop playing. Kept going to bed at 4am because of it.

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      • I recommend his article “Death of the Author”- it’s an interesting theory. Though I’d take it with a pinch of salt, cos his argument is to just completely ignore the author, which is obviously silly (cos obviously the author’s life, influences and thoughts might give some clues about interpretation).
        haha, can’t say I’ve been addicted to anything as exciting as Cooking Fever, just had a super busy weekend and it doesn’t look like this week will let up- and I have so many books I wanna read!!

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        • That article sounds familiar. I’ll give a read.
          Yes, I’ve found it hard to separate the author from the text. I forgot the name of the type of literary criticism where the reader focuses solely on the work and ignores the author but I wasn’t a fan of it. I believe that the author’s opinions and experiences influences what he writes so he/she must also be considered when analyzing texts.
          That’s me this week. Crazy busy and being hooked on Cooking Fever doesn’t help. I tell you, I have no idea why I’m so hooked.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think it’s structuralism, but I could be wrong. Yeah I agree, although I do think it can be useful to bear in mind that what the author says might not be the correct interpretation.
          haha to be honest, that game does sound fun though!

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  3. Well, I think my biggest quality as a reader is making it all about the book 😄 I’ve never imagined being friends with authors nor being a part of their personal life, so if the book interests me I would still go out and buy it.

    Wait, did I just read that right? A MILLION LITTLE PIECES IS A LIE? Why would you even lie about a freaking memoir! Gyaaaaah that’s so horrible! And I’m guessing his second book was too -.-

    Currently, I’m reading The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski. It’s giving me headaches and horrible heart aches! When I’ve had enough of Kestrel and Arin, I switch over to The Palace Job which has an Oceans Eleven feel to it. I’m curious about the Natl Geographic magazine you got there, I’ve always wanted to subscribe to them but I dont know what to do with it once I’m finished 😄

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    • Lol. I’m not sure about his second book but so I’ve heard about the first. The first couple pages I read were great so I think I’ll repurchase it and finish it.
      The Nat Geo issue is so interesting! I bought it to read around Halloween but forgot to. It’s basically filled with scientific facts that prove or disprove certain myths and monsters. I keep buying the issues individually. I need to get a subscription as well.

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  4. I definitely try and read with an open mind – don’t want to risk missing a great book just because of the author – but sometimes it really bugs me about their attitude. I think it was Terry Goodkind who apparently doesn’t think anyone under 50 has the know-how to write (don’t quote me on that, I might be wrong, sure I heard it somewhere).

    I seem to have come across loads of medicore books lately, it’s frustrating, isn’t it? Great post!

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    • It seems that you’re suffering from a bout of middling books like SciFi and Scary below. It is frustrating to keep coming across okay books. At those times, I sometimes reread an old favorite just to make myself excited about something, though the excitement is usually stale because I’m already familiar with the work.
      Yep, I prefer to keep an open mind. It’s not guaranteed that I’ll like everyone.

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  5. I agree with you mostly and add that i couldn’t give a rats arse what an author has said or done as long as their work is good, and that goes for anyone really, but saying that if I did dislike something said or done by any then hell yes ,I’d avoid them like the plague, even if they shat golden eggs and won the woopie award five hundred times!
    This is probably why I don’t research to much into any author before reading, I’ll usually do that after.

    I have been reading A few short stories by Ray Bradbury, interspersed with dreaming and general contemplating of the navel 😉

    Oh the rain!

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    • Lol, lol. Yea, I usually research the author after reading the book. Though usually when I hear controversial things about an author, it makes me want to read their work even more. Smh, I’m such a weirdo.
      Lol. How’s Ray Bradbury? Do you like the stories so far? I attempted Fahrenheit 451 once but it was so boring, I didn’t finish it.

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      • Speaking of controversial, 451 is considered his masterpiece or so the blurb on the back of this “stories volume two ” alludes.
        Haven’t read it so, one day maybe, proves you crazy, weirdo baby 😉

        So far, over the last few months, Bradbury’s book of a hundred short stories has been a great backup for when nothing more substantial (not sure if that’s the best description) has been available. Not that I’m saying that there’s anything wrong with his writing, in fact there’s some truly great stories in this volume, it’s just that I find short stories too short, almost unsettling, I like the journey to go on for as long as possible, immersed in character and story, both reluctant of ending, and speedily devouring it there.

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  6. Hmm, depends, honestly. If I hear uncomplimentary things about the author before I’ve ever read any of their work, I’d be less inclined to pick it up. HOWEVER, once I’ve started reading something and enjoying it? As long as their personal actions/beliefs aren’t embodied in the work, meh. I’ll keep reading it. Then again, I feel weirdly out of place because I’m someone who, when someone offered me an autographed copy of their work, reacted with “Uhm.. why? The signed name doesn’t add anything to it…”

    Now, as for what I’m reading.. I’ve hit a wall this past week. I can’t seem to get my hands on anything GOOD! I’m *trying* to finish Lunar Discovery: Let the Space Race Begin by Salvador Mercer. Its not bad…its just “meh”. I’m poking at “Hell is Empty and All the Demons are Here”, which the author just sent me an edited copy of after he bit the bullet and got it professionally edited, but I just can’t work up much enthusiasm for it right now. I just downloaded Monsterland from Netgalley, but I’m almost afraid to open it because if I come up against another 3 star book, I’m going to freaking scream!

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