Today’s post from Erika Dreifus deserves a look-see. She comments on a recent NY Times essay by Margot Rabb entitled “Fallen Idols,” then adds her own reflections, touching on various writers with Anti-Zionist or antisemitic beliefs, such as T.S. Eliot and Alice Walker (the latter of whom has recently made headlines). I invite you to read both pieces (the links are embedded above).
An interesting aspect of the writer-reader relationship that Rabb touches on is that readers get to step inside the brains of authors. For this reason, there are some Chareidim who only allow their children to read books written by people who are either Orthodox Jews themselves, or are otherwise respected and considered to have good character. While I don’t have this “policy” myself, I do understand that it’s reflecting a genuine concern. Authors don’t have to have a conscious agenda to slip all sorts of allusions to their beliefs in their work. For example, English authors are particularly well known for their antisemitism, which pops up in all sorts of weird places (Georgette Heyer’s The Great Sophy, several works by Dickens, and so on). The science-fiction/fantasy author Phillip Pullman is a proud atheist, and his work reflects this viewpoint.
Then again, if an author uses their money to donate to causes we don’t agree with, a political cause that does not have anything to do with their writing, is that a reason shun their work? Or, to take it a step further, protest their work?
One of the commentators on Erika Dreifus’s blog mentions Orson Scott Card. There are people who want to picket the movie adaptation of his book, Ender’s Game, because they disagree with his political and religious beliefs. (I happen to not agree with the commentator’s assessment of Card, but he’s a good example.) Ender’s Game does not mention the particular beliefs that the protesters find repulsive in Card’s public statements.
Personally, I can see forgoing a trip to the theater, or skipping a book, if you disagree with an author or artist. But a public protest seems excessive to me unless the novel/play/whatever is actively preaching the message you disagree with in that particular piece of work.
How likely are you to read a book by someone whose character is deeply flawed or who espouses beliefs you find repugnant?