Thursday, February 05, 2009

Too Much Information?

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Suggested by Simon Thomas:
Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?

Today's prompt reminded me of my third post on this blog, back on Anne Tyler's birthday in 2004:

Literature is inescapably political. . . . It is in the act of reading that we define our notions about the world, what we judge to be right or wrong, important or unimportant, acceptable or unacceptable; literature is the testing ground of the imagination, where we decide who we are and what sort of society we live in or should be living in. You tell me your favorite novelists and I'll tell you whom you vote for, or whether you vote at all.
-- Stephen Vizinczey

I'm always rather stunned when people reject a previously loved author or entertainer once they discover his or her political views are at odds with their own. The hatred directed at the Dixie Chicks last year was downright frightening--especially since so much of it was provoked and then encouraged by corporate radio with ties to the Bush administration and family.

Yet I've noticed that my favorites generally do seem to share my beliefs; I suppose we are naturally drawn to those like us without our having to consciously seek them out. It's those who relate to authors or entertainers in one area and cannot stand the cognitive dissonance in having their favorites differ from them in another who sputteringly bemoan the fact that these, these celebrities won't practice self-censorship and spare them from their awful opinions. First amendment rights aren't pretty unless put into practice by their own side.

Booking Through Thursday


  1. I am not concerned about an author's political beliefs or religious beliefs. But if I learn that an author has hateful beliefs (I used Pound as an example in my post), then I do have a problem.

  2. Good quote. I do tend to enjoy those whose beliefs I share. Happy Booking Through Thursday!

  3. I'm probably the least concerned about their political beliefs unless they're way out there.

    I usually start with just the story, and maybe the biographical blurb on the back cover. But sometimes after I have read and enjoyed several books by one author, I like to read more about them, figuring their own life story goes into the stories they write. Often it enhances my reading of their work.

  4. I'm not usually concerned with personal political beliefs, but I am sometimes concerned about how those beliefs show up in the literature. It annoys me when a political bias becomes a strident thread in a novel. I've read a couple of novels recently that let that bias (one liberal, the other conservative) have too much time and focus in a didactic manner. Make me think, make me consider your point, but don't preach...

  5. Anonymous2:26 PM

    The truth is, at least for me, knowing the life of an author might incline me to read more of the works. Knowing is key to understand the authorial meaning in fiction. After all, author is a life, reading an author is just getting to know the life.

  6. I have a hard time with entertainers who get on a soapbox and stay there. I find this particularly true with actors. The more I know about an actor, the harder it is to separate their real life persona from their onscreen one. It becomes a huge distraction. And so I can see that would be the same for other arts with people as well. If so and so has spent a great deal of time in the limelight on an issue, it might distract from their work.

    Do they have freedom of speech? Of course, just as I have the freedom to stop caring about the work they produce. ;)

  7. If I only read those who agreed with me, I'd be more smug than I am already.

  8. I don't mind what the author's views are, nor how much they come through in the literature, as long as they don't get in the way of the story. Look at a book like 1984. Orwell was making a clear-cut political point, no question about it, but the book is so well-written and engrossing that no one would (or rather should) ever call it preachy. Whereas, in my opinion, Philip Pullman lost the sheen, tone and muscle of his storytelling in his strenuous efforts to make his anti-Narnian points known during the course of the Dark Materials trilogy.

    Be as political as you like -- disagree with me -- have your own way -- but don't let it get in the way of your writing. That's my take-home message.


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