“. . . he understood that the makers of sublime art were not necessarily sublime themselves. And it was not necessary that they be, he told himself.”
I’m on vacation at the Jersey Shore–and on dial-up, so excuse the lack of pictures–and read a book by an author whose online persona is unpleasant, but her books are good. I can, in the words of Henry Rollins and Black Flag, Rise Above. Which got me to thinking–how far is it to go for an unlikeable person to write a pleasant personality?
I mean, stories abound of how rotten George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Evelyn Waugh, A.A. Milne (poor Christopher Robin!) all were; we know Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker weren’t exactly the nicest folks.
I, of course, am extremely nice–to a fault, if I do say so myself (although I have a biting wit if your clothing is inappropriate, Ms. Mutton)–and I am not certain I could write a very mean person. I do know I am writing an Alpha Hero whose first instincts are to do everything exactly the opposite of the way I would do them, which is how I am figuring out what he is to do.
When questioned, every author will say ‘it’s fiction!,’ which of course is especially important when you’re James Ellroy or Tess Gerritsen. But if you know the author is not a nice person, does that affect your reading of his or her work? How about if they’re too nice?
Me, I prefer keeping a Kantian distance from my authors; I don’t want to know if they had a drinking problem, or hated their mother, or were mean to their siblings. I want to feel their art regardless of their personal lives, react and respond to the work purely as it stands. How about you? Are there authors you cannot read because you know they were horrendous people?
PS: I have to say I still love watching Charlton Heston and his Chest in Omega Man, despite what I know about his politics, which are the polar opposite of mine. Does that make me shallow, or open-minded?