Friday, February 22, 2013

Knowing Who Writes the Books

Happy Friday all! I have to apologize first for no Five on Friday. Unfortunately our author for this week fell through. If I get the responses at a later date, I'll reschedule. In the meantime, I am excited about some of the authors who are getting on board for the 2013 year. You'll see some familiar folks, but a lot of new faces as well, which is very exciting to me.

Instead of a Five on Friday, I'm going to do a little philosophizing today, I guess. Or maybe that's too generous a word...maybe talking out loud...or typing in cyberspace. Whatever. I want to talk about a topic that I've seen mentioned in a couple articles now. I've made brief comments about them but feel a full blog post is appropriate. And I think it ties into the idea of our Five on Friday feature as well. The topic is getting to know the people who write the books.

Back in January, the New Yorker had this article about "reading repulsive authors." I commented that I really can't do that. Once someone has done something to make me repulsed by them, I can't read their books the same way anymore. Peter Damien at Book Riot seems to share my sentiments on that and has a very open, generous post explaining his feelings.

I love how Damien opens his article saying it's a good thing to see your heroes as human. And I agree completely. In fact, seeing many of them as human has only caused me to admire them more. 

I respect everyone's right to have their own opinions and to be able to voice them, provided they are not inducing violence against others or overriding the rights of someone else. So someone expressing their political views or religious views or some other sensitive topic, isn't going to deter me from reading their work if I enjoy what they write. In fact, I may even be more open to hearing what they are saying if it differs from my own views because I've come to respect them in other areas. [I will add a caveat here...fanatics are a different situation. If your beliefs terrify me, forget it. I'm outta Dodge.]

I also believe in the Golden Rule, however, and if I see or experience someone mistreating someone else or behaving as though they are more important than someone else, that's usually a black mark in my eye. And those are the only instances that have caused me to stop reading authors I once read (actually it was only one author) or not start reading someone. I know that my negative experience has been extensive enough that I can't objectively read the author any longer. And I sure wouldn't find that fun. I'm certainly not going to punish myself for something someone else did.

But we've kind of been discussing this as though authors are the only ones who encounter this kind of issue. And that's not the case at all. If we look at President Clinton, we see that he had to deal with people knowing about his personal life in ways that President Kennedy, or any president before Kennedy for that matter, did not. Royalty in Europe find the paparazzi much more intrusive than 30 or 40 years ago. Teachers, police officers, firefighters...all have had scandals, sometimes losing their jobs, because of otherwise legal things that they did or said in their own personal lives that made it back to their employers. Whether it's right or not is a moot point. It happens; when we make choices about what careers we want to pursue, where we want to live, who we want to be, there are conditions that come along with those choices. When we make choices there's always some kind of consequence. Sometimes they're positive, sometimes not--but they always exist.

Likewise, in our country, we have the right to express dissatisfaction or disgust by choosing not to buy or support, it's the nature of the beast in a society like ours. Years ago I stopped attending professional sporting events or buying merchandise because I've become so enraged by the value we place on professional sports over things like education and human welfare. I've chosen not to eat in restaurants when the company opts for cheap over humane animal treatment. Will it make a difference? No, not likely. But that's the voice I have and no matter how small, I choose to be heard that way.

Similarly, people can choose what music they listen to, what movies they see, what books they read and there is an overwhelming amount to choose from. It's not as though any one artist has a monopoly in their chosen field. Can a great writer be a complete ass and still make money? Sure. But is the reader who chooses not to continue reading that author really going to lose out? Probably not because there are so many other great writers out there as well.

Of course I can say this in a genre where I've experienced VERY few bad encounters.

My conclusion for all this is always make sure that the reading experience remains fun. If you can read someone who has been a jerk and still enjoy the book, like Maria Bustillos can, then do it. If you're more like me and it takes the fun out of a reading experience, then don't read that person anymore. But do keep in mind that our authors are humans. If you expect them to be Gods, you probably won't have much to read.


Rhiannon February 23, 2013 at 10:33 PM  

This is a good topic to cover. I also agree with your policy for reviewing books you like only, as another reader I know puts it "life is too short to finish one star books". If I find a book to be 1-2 stars and not thrilling or moving, I will put it down and move on. There are just too many books in my pile waiting for me to waste time finishing the duds just for the sake of finishing.

It takes a lot for an author to turn me off entirely and good behavior on a personal level will also make me seek out another book by an author I didn't care for previously (maybe it was the series if they have several, or one bad book).

Webmaster February 25, 2013 at 1:22 AM  
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George at The Thirty Year Itch February 25, 2013 at 1:25 AM  

Good post Jen. Since I've never been mistreated by an author I don't know exactly how I would react, but I suspect I, too, would avoid his or her work.

I also think this works well the other way, too. When I meet an author that seems genuine and I like, I become more likely to read his or her books and support their work publicly. Perhaps it makes me feel like part of the team!

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