Earlier this week, Twitter led me to agent Jennifer Laughran’s blog, where a post titled “Reading with the Enemy” had launched a really fascinating and complicated discussion about issues I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about myself (including over the past few weeks after reading Tracy Hahn-Burkett’s related post on “A Bit of Controversy in Your Platform?”).
I encourage you to read Jennifer’s whole post, but I’m going to excerpt what I think are the key questions (they’re the ones I’m still thinking about, anyway):
Lots of people are less awesome in real life than we’d like them to be. They are… well, they are people. People are flawed. Some people believe things that you don’t believe. Some of them do things you wouldn’t do. Some are real schmucks. Some of them are actually criminals. Does this take away from their work?
I seriously want to know: Do you expect creators to be “nice” or have private lives or political beliefs that you approve of? Do you think this is an unreasonable expectation?
Can you separate somebody’s political/personal/religious views or personality from their artwork/writing/music?
If you met an author and he was a real jerk to you – would you read his books? What if you were already a fan? Would you stop liking whatever you’d liked before?
If you saw some art, and you had no knowledge of the creator, and you thought it was a work of genius… and then you found out the artist had murdered somebody then committed suicide ten years ago… would you think less of the artwork?
Same piece of artwork, you have no knowledge of the creator, you think it is a work of genius… and then you overhear the artist telling racist jokes at the bar. Think less of the artwork now?
Jennifer goes on to say: “I AM FULL OF QUESTIONS AND THOUGHTS on this topic and I could go on for ages – I’d love to hear what you all think. [ETA: To clarify (or mystify?) even further: Despite however it might sound above, I really DON’T have concrete opinions on this topic. It’s a big one, and I myself am completely conflicted and unable to process it without emotions. So don’t worry about offending me or anything else – I am asking what you think because I really want to know!]”
She is so right. It’s a huge topic. And, like her, I’m also full of questions and thoughts on the topic, and I, too, could go on for ages about it (I’d even expand it beyond “mere” reading to promoting/blogging about/reviewing work by authors you might find “problematic”). But for now, I’m more interested in hearing what YOU think.