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.