How to Hate an Author

Lemon-drop martini in Delray Beach, FloridaI’m in Florida this week, visiting the fabulous Megan Mulry, and attending the Coastal Magic Convention. We had a lovely day of working in the morning and touristing in the afternoon.

I may have bought shoes…

It’s always interesting going to see the writers I know from online chatter, intense phone conversations and even in-person at conferences – in their home environments. There’s this entire world they belong to that has nothing to do with their writer selves.

A fascinating insight.

But it’s apropos of this month’s theme of writer crushes. One of the best perks of being a writer is getting writers you admire to be your friends. Then you not only get to have the benefit of receiving their books before anyone else does, you also get to hang with the source of those fascinating ideas. It doesn’t always work this way, but sometimes the voice you fall in love with is also a person you can come to love.

Of course, this can go the other direction, too. A book you love might turn out to be penned by someone you don’t like personally, for whatever reason. I think this feels like a deep betrayal, because we feel so intimately attached to the stories we read – how can we not love the person who created them out of their heads? It seems that the beauty and emotion of the story MUST be echoed in the person….

But this is not always true.

I have – I think we all have – horror stories of meeting some much-beloved author, either online or in real life, and finding that love turn into sour distaste and sometimes intense dislike. It makes me think of the saw, that there’s a thin line between love and hate. Extreme feelings are extreme. Sometimes I think that the more strongly we love then, if it goes bad, we hate to the opposite extent.

Sometimes I think we don’t hate the person so much as we dislike the sense of disappointment, that the shiny, fairy-dust glittered ideal has dimmed with the grime and dullness of regular daylight.

This has happened to me more than once. Way back when I was “only” a reader, with no aspirations to write fiction, to today – meeting other authors whose work I admire. The very worst is with friends I’ve loved, who somewhere along the way turned out not to love me back. Breaking up is hard to do, no matter what.

And then there are the icons. The authors from way, way back – who turn out to have done something reprehensible. Then we end up having these conversations: can you love the art and hate the artist? Can I appreciate a Woody Allen movie and set aside what happened with his wife, his daughter and step-daughter? What about Bill Cosby, Orson Scott Card, Marian Zimmer Bradley, and far too many others whose grimy thoughts and actions shadow their otherwise shining work?

I don’t know.

In the end…. I guess I want to believe that our work redeems us. That we may be miserable human beings, but if we manage to bring something good and beautiful and inspiring into the world, maybe that makes up for us being less than what we should be in person. Maybe if we can never manage to be who we could for the people in our lives, then maybe we can bring stories to the greater circle of humanity. Stories that inspire greater love and better things from others.

Despite it all, I remain an idealist.

How do you hate an author? Maybe with compassion and tolerance. With the hope that they can grow to be a better person. And with the faith that anyone who could produce a story that moving, is capable of becoming a person worthy of the love that work inspires.


How to Hate an Author — 8 Comments

  1. That matter of separating art from the artist is a sticky one. For some reason, I think it’s so much easier to divorce the two entities when it comes to music. Maybe it’s because we accept that the musician on stage is a persona. In every other sphere, I find it much more difficult to do so. Insightful post, Jeffe!

  2. This is a tough question. It’s hard for me to look at a performer like Bill Cosby the same way I did back in the eighties. I’m not sure I can make the separation between the man and the performer.

  3. I can’t separate the artist from the art. There are actors I once loved who I no longer watch and authors I loved who I no longer read. Actually, just one author. An NYT bestseller years ago. I made a point of going to her signing here in town, because I knew how difficult they were. Not a soul there but me, and I quickly learned why. She seemed quite put out with me. I almost left the signed book in the store, but I didn’t want to penalize the store for her actions. Didn’t read that book and haven’t bought or read one of hers since. Yeah, I hold a grudge, whether the slight is aimed at me or someone else (uh huh, all of those you mentioned above and then some).

  4. To some extent I can separate the artist/writer from their work. Interestingly enough, I don’t have issues with most of the people listed above. I’ve never liked Woody Allen movies so I don’t watch them. What happened with him and his lover’s adopted daughter is a great example of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. (He never married Mia and he never adopted Mia’s Korean adopted daughter.)

    It’s like Roman Polaski’s movies. I watched them long before I learned about his sexual crime against a minor. I still enjoy his movies even if I find him to be a bit of a pussy. He confessed to the assault, was given a VERY lenient sentence and he ran. P.U.S.S.Y.

    Authors who I’m disgusted with, I don’t waste time, money or effort on them. For me, I agree that hate is a fine line with love. And the point about being disappointed is a valid one and one to ponder more about. In reality, I guess I don’t care enough about an author that displeases me and I figure it is my own issue. So for me, they cease to exist. People ask me if I want to read them. The answer is no. Do I read their books? No. Do I talk about their books. No. If they contact me do I answer? No. Because as I stated, they cease to exist and I can’t be bothered with their drama or whatever it is they do.

  5. Thanks for such an insightful, thoughtful comment! I think your approach of simply erasing them from your universe is a very sane one. Life is too short for any of us to spend on people who don’t add to our lives. Fie on drama!

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