Saturday, April 15, 2006

This keeps me up at night!


Does the author of your book influence how you feel about it? This is something that has haunted me since I began reading. I love research so I tend to always read up on the current writer I am reading. Take Horatio Alger Jr. for instance. Many of his works have been described as rags to riches stories, illustrating how down-and-out boys might be able to achieve the American dream of wealth and success through hard work, courage, determination, and concern for others. In 1860, Reverend Alger took a position as minister of the First Parish Unitarian Church of Brewster on Cape Cod, but left for New York City rather suddenly, ostensibly to pursue a career in writing. Church records uncovered after Alger's death indicate that he was quietly dismissed for having sexual relations with several teenage boys in his parish (as a result, the New York City chapter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association is named after him). He was a pedophilia and yet he wrote fantastic books for and about children in the 19 hundreds. So do we not read his books because of who he was? Do we love Little Women because we love Louisa May Alcott? Does the fact that Edgar Allen Poe was ever so slightly off make his books that much more interesting because he seemed so close to his subject. Should you take into account the author when choosing something to read? Is it fair to allow the abstract lives of the writer detract from the novel? So does who you are as a writer influence your readers?

6 comments:

e4 said...

Wow. Well, I don't really know what I think. You can't help but be affected by that kind of information, but then again, the merits of the work should stand alone. I don't think that's always the case though. Lewis Carroll was a bit of a nutter, and pretty heavily into drugs, if I recall, but his work is still held in high regard. Michael Jackson, not so much.

Maybe it depends on the crime or transgression. We're willing to forgive alcholoism, drug abuse and things of that nature a lot more than pedophilia, spousal abuse, or anything that hurts others. Barry Bonds is losing a lot of status over the steroid reports, but that's not just drug use, that's also cheating. But even drug abuse can be pretty dang harmful to others in a family setting.

I just don't know. Brilliant question though...

Suzer said...

Louisa May Alcott hated her own books and only wrote to satisfy her parents. She really wanted to write seedy novels. She lived out the remainder of her life bitter and alone. Lewis Carroll also had a penchant for little girls, and was known to invite them to stay at his house quite often. Supposedly he just liked to look, not touch.

I think all genius is touched with a little madness and depravity. It's like Elton John's songs... If you think about who they're written for, they don't have the same ring. So I just sing along and put my own meaning to the words!

JBTW said...

In the same sense, can you still enjoy watching an actor or actress after you find out about their actual life. Particularly if you don't agree with how they act or what their beliefs are. (Not necessarily religious beliefs, but that a wife is the man's 'property' sort of thing.)

Morgan said...

Louisa May Alcott did write some adult books like "Behind the Mask" which dealt with adultry. Your right she hated writing childrens books. Little Women she enjoyed writing but after that she did it for the money. I love her still.

I didn't know the bit about Lewis Carroll though so thanks for the info.

Suzer said...

Here's a creepy Lewis Carroll quote. "I am fond of children-except boys."

Morgan said...

I think I am starting to agree with the idea that you should let the writer be who he or she is and leave the writing on its own merit but sometimes I can't help but think of the writer everyonce and awhile as I read through a new book