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Members' Chat > Questions to Ask When Beloved Books Haven't Aged Well

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message 1: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
(Pretend this isn't me posting this. Goodreads is being glitchy. Pretend for right now you're responding to Anthony. Okay, thanks!)

Hey all —

I came across this article today and thought it might provide potent fodder for discussion here.

https://www.tor.com/2018/08/27/proble...

This had been on my mind recently as I was reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and encountering its casual misogyny and rape culture “jokes” left me feeling quite uncomfortable. I just think it’s important to name and address problematic issues that populate some of the classic works, and I’ll be very curious to hear what folks in this thriving community have to say about it.

Thanks, and happy reading, all.


message 2: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Okay, I'm me again.

First of all, I feel this article maligns OAFK a bit more than is necessary. All of the uses of the bad words mentioned were used to show how thoughtless, racist, deranged or otherwise wrong people are in the context of subverting power structures.

But I do think the questions are good ones. I said elsewhere, the question I ask instead of "can I write it better" as that's a pretty specialized way to look at things is "what is the affected community saying about this work?" There have been awkward instances of people going off on a trope that turned out not to offend the community in question for some reason of cultural or emotional resonance that the out-group couldn't differentiate. Nothing like 'splaining to a group about their own hurt! And if it is a problem, I'd rather hear why they think so, what could be better, who does it better, and their takeaways. I think it raises my awareness, and hopefully their voices a bit more.


message 3: by Gabi (last edited Aug 29, 2018 01:08PM) (new)

Gabi | 3405 comments I came across this problem with two children books I read to my boys (sorry, here I go again, but I read a lot to them). One is Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer by Michael Ende where he writes extremely prejudiced about Chinese people, the other one was Pippi Langstrumpf by Astrid Lindgren, where African people are described in a rather patronizing way.
I think at least the problematic parts in Ende's book have been changed in modern editions. (I had the old versions from my own childhood) I changed the passages while reading, but I would never let my kids read these old versions by themselves. I threw them away afterwards.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Allison wrote: "Okay, I'm me again.

First of all, I feel this article maligns OAFK a bit more than is necessary. All of the uses of the bad words mentioned were used to show how thoughtless, racist, deranged or o..."



Hmmm. IDK.

I started but never finished OAFK - but I never got to the racism. I got stuck at the treatment of women. My first exposures to King Arthur were The Dark Is Rising (Boxed Set): Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree and (sadly) The Mists of Avalon.

Both of these books featured very strong female characters...and Mists stars Morgana as a heroine...

When I tried OAFK it was via a iTunes class and I was upset and disgusted by the visuals of women.

So, I can see some serious other issues making it an impossible book to recommend. And I can see re-reading it as an adult and being repulsed by it's visuals.


message 5: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2285 comments I read older children's books, too, and find it disheartening how even Newbery books from the 1950s, for example, talked about the "not us" in such disparaging, or at least patronizing, ways. The authors should have known better.

And the thing is, young parents now think 'oh that's just the way it was in the old days.' No. The 1950s were not the old days. Even if today's readers are not learning racism (etc.) from books, they're learning bad history.

I would *love* to get more input from the affected communities.


message 6: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 29, 2018 01:16PM) (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
MrsJoseph wrote: "Allison wrote: "Okay, I'm me again.

First of all, I feel this article maligns OAFK a bit more than is necessary. All of the uses of the bad words mentioned were used to show how thoughtless, racis..."


Interesting! I really how the women are written in OAFK! I mean, they were upsetting, but I liked that he let us feel how awful the world was to them and their reactions.


message 7: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "I read older children's books, too, and find it disheartening how even Newbery books from the 1950s, for example, talked about the "not us" in such disparaging, or at least patronizing, ways. The a..."

That's a great reminder, Cheryl! I agree that we get in some sort of "that's just historical fact" loop that maybe deserves to be examined more closely.


message 8: by Anthony (last edited Aug 29, 2018 01:28PM) (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments As with all things, it’s always about the context in which the content is presented. In the case of Heinlein, I found it especially gross that the supposedly smart, sassy, empowered female characters who apparently didn’t take guff from the menfolk would casually joke about being raped (or not raped) and withstand catcalls and claps and kisses, *and* that there was absolutely no talk about the inappropriateness of underaged girls being seen as viable wives. There was no balance to these depictions, and therefore I believe they were an expression of Heinlein’s worldview, and that makes me reluctant to want to encounter his work again.

At the same time, I can admire aspects of his craftsmanship as a writer, and enjoy individual scenes, and even enjoy aspects of the smart, sassy women.

So it’s complicated.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Allison wrote: "MrsJoseph wrote: "Allison wrote: "Okay, I'm me again.

First of all, I feel this article maligns OAFK a bit more than is necessary. All of the uses of the bad words mentioned were used to show how ..."


Well, I didn't get far. I stopped at the description of...Morgana? where she is this fat, lazy, self-entitled... you get the drift. I was pretty upset because I had a different mental image entirely. But it caused me to write off the entire series and not read any farther.


message 10: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 29, 2018 01:46PM) (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Ah, that's fair, MrsJ. I had a similar reaction with Mists of Avalon.


message 11: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 29, 2018 02:00PM) (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Anthony, I think you touched on something that means a lot to me in my determination of reading/recommending something problematic--the author's intent/viewpoint. There's a big difference between using an old word that's no longer in use, or even some level of erasure and the realization that the author thought it was totally cool to do something to marginalized groups that we don't agree with.

So, for example, I won't read Orson Scott Card anymore because even though gay people don't feature heavily in his stories, knowing he is actively working to torture them is something I can't abide. Heinlein I'm beginning to think was a predator, which makes me less inclined to read his work further (though it's sad, as Moon is still a book I can view through my rose-tinted glasses of youth!) I really don't think TH White belongs on that suspected mass-criminal list...


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Allison wrote: "Ah, that's fair, MrsJ. I had a similar reaction with Mists of Avalon."

I read Mists for the first time in 6th grade - a LOT went over my head. A LOT. But the clear and strong feminist message came through loud and clear.

I also read a couple of other very adult books around that time period that stuck with me - one of which is a decent book but a terrible movie: Toy Soldiers and a book that you couldn't pay me to pick up now Morning Glory.


message 13: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Allison wrote: "Anthony, I think you touched on something that means a lot to me in my determination of reading/recommending something problematic--the author's intent/viewpoint. There's a big difference between u..."

Ah yes, Mr. Orson Scott Card. I read the first two Ender books when they came out, all those many years ago, and loved them. And then as an adult I read some horrible things he said about LGBT folks and well, it’s safe to say I will never read anything else he has written.

I’ve been wondering whether Brandon Sanderson, who I believe has been mentored by Card, shares some of Card’s views? I couldn’t find anything on the record when I did a cursory search. I had been out of loop of the contemporary SFF literary world until this year, when I came back full force, so I have missed decades of work of some of the genre’s most popular authors, including Sanderson’s. His name frequently appears at or near the top of many lists of the best fantasy being written today, but his association (which admittedly may be tangential) with Card has made me wary. Does anyone know about this?

It is worth stating that this line of discussion is actually distinct from, although related to, the content in the work itself; but I think it’s also deeply important, and relevant, as we continue to engage with the question of how we relate to the work of artists who are themselves problematic, or even monstrous.


message 14: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments MrsJoseph wrote: "Allison wrote: "Ah, that's fair, MrsJ. I had a similar reaction with Mists of Avalon."

I read Mists for the first time in 6th grade - a LOT went over my head. A LOT. But the clear and strong femin..."


Ah, and this brings up another related issue. In doing research about some of the authors I’m adding to my TBR list, I learned that Marion Zimmerman Bradley apparently behaved very badly (a severe understatement) toward her children. I hadn’t known anything about this before I purchased The Mists of Avalon, but this knowledge has made me question whether or not I want to read her work. At the same time, I understand she was a hugely successful and influential feminist writer.

So, it’s problematic...


message 15: by MrsJoseph *grouchy* (last edited Aug 29, 2018 02:27PM) (new)

MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Anthony wrote: "Ah, and this brings up another related issue. In doing research about some of the authors I’m adding to my TBR list, I learned that Marion Zimmerman Bradley apparently behaved very badly (a severe understatement) toward her children. I hadn’t known anything about this before I purchased The Mists of Avalon, but this knowledge has made me question whether or not I want to read her work. At the same time, I understand she was a hugely successful and influential feminist writer.

So, it’s problematic... "


She was a favorite of mine before I found out.

I was collecting her works. And she was an amazing author and certainly before her time - book wise.

Sadly, she was also a liar, a child molester, a child molester enabler and a child abuser.

I even had to stop reading and collecting her Swords and Sorceress anthology which broke my heart.

ETA: Her lover who was aware of the abuse was her beneficiary and so all proceeds from her current sales and IP goes to child molester/abuser enabler. I don't say this lightly - there are transcripts that show MZB's daughter came to her for help and she went to MZB who when terrorized the daughter even more.


message 16: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack of consensus!

Anthony--Sanderson had briefly said that he follows the Mormon church, and that he thinks homosexuality a sin...and then recently walked that back and said possibly the church isn't right about some things, including its treatment of the LGBTQIA community, and went on to make canonically, loudly, proudly (maybe somewhat problematical) gay characters in one of his books as a sign of his earnestness. So I'm watching him like a hawk, but I believe he's not on board with homophobic practices.

And you're right, of course, that a work can be problematic without involving the author's viewpoints...but it does feel different, doesn't it? Like hearing someone cursing versus being cursed at. The former requires I be in a space that feels appropriate for cursing. The latter is never acceptable to me.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Allison wrote: "MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack of consensus!"

Seriously, when I think about some of the things I read then - it's...not what I would call feminism now. For sure. But...at the time and what I had to compare it to and who I had to discuss it with...

I have bad feelings about a lot of what I read now - but at the time the major thing that bothered me was the incest. Boy, have I a lot more to be bothered by now.


message 18: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
We have a whole thread on problematic faves which heavily features OSC and MZB, among others.

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

So I think this thread is more about "so, a book, irrespective of author, is problematic. What next?"


message 19: by Michel (last edited Aug 29, 2018 02:46PM) (new)

Michel Poulin | 685 comments Here is something that maybe few readers at Goodreads will know about, as it is about an old but very popular series of illustrated books by a Belgian author: the adventures of Tintin, by Hergé. When I was a small boy (in the 1960s), I loved reading Tintin albums. However, as I grew up and learned more about the World, I started realizing how outrageously racist Hergé's albums were and how much it reflected the racist views of the old Belgian colonial empire. One perfect example of such racist work was Tintin au Congo Tintin au Congo (Tintin #2) by Hergé . Of course, as an eight year-old boy in 1963, I didn't know anything about the Congo and its history but now, I would urge any parent to avoid Hergé's books like the plague.


message 20: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
MrsJoseph wrote: "Allison wrote: "MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack of consensus!"
..."


Also true that we and our viewpoints shift! <3 Empathy on the growth of problems we find.


message 21: by Jemppu (new)

Jemppu | 1730 comments Gabi wrote: "I came across this problem with two children books I read to my boys (sorry, here I go again, but I read a lot to them). One is Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer by [author:Mic..."

That Pippi one is certainly one I remember from my own childhood - one of the only series of books I owned. Patronizing, certainly, but I remember it being with admiring sort of curiosity that the 'tribe' got portrayed at least - not as 'lesser humans' by Pippi's view, but superior even, in their way of life. Or that's how I remember it, having read it as a kid some decades ago. Could be completely betrayed by nostalgia there.

The book has also gotten a new translation in Finnish since, I believe. Most likely due to 'correct' these 'old world views' and to let the new generations still enjoy the books.

Speaking of which: do people have opinions on that? Fixing old works to reflect current times? Especially, if the original author isn't there to do it themselves? Are there much known instances? Would something possibly 'educational' be lost there too - in attempts to try and 'hide' the potentially eye opening old prejudices?


message 22: by Jemppu (last edited Aug 29, 2018 02:45PM) (new)

Jemppu | 1730 comments Michel wrote: "Here is something that maybe few readers at Goodreads will know about, as it is about an old but very popular series of illustrated books by a Belgian author: the adventures of Tintin, by Hergé. Wh..."

omg, this! Read this as a kid as well. I think a good counter balance for this would come from the other 'school' of Franco-Belgian comic artistry: Spirou. Once you get past the initially jarring approach of 'black facing' the white characters, Tome and Janry actually tackled the racial issue in Le Rayon Noir pretty decently, iirc (although, even there the protagonist and the hero to essentially safe the day being a white male still holds). Again, at least how it read to a kid (which, is their core audience, mind you - so perhaps not totally wasted effort).

Spirou et Fantasio - Tome 44 - LE RAYON NOIR


message 23: by Michel (last edited Aug 29, 2018 03:04PM) (new)

Michel Poulin | 685 comments While I read a lot of Spirou albums in my youth, I didn't read LE RAYON NOIR. The authors of Spirou albums certainly struck me as much less racist than Hergé and I would say that their work has survived the passage of time much better than the TINTIN series. I particularly liked the Spirou albums featuring the wanabe 'great conqueror' Zorglub.


message 24: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Allison wrote: "MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack of consensus!

Anthony--Sanders..."


Thanks for this, it’s helpful for me to know. First plan is to read The Wheel of Time series, which my friend Andra vigorously recommended to me, so I’ll get a taste for his writing there.

As for MZB...agh. Allison, when you read her work, I assume you didn’t know of any of this background information. Was Mists the only book of hers you read?

Seems like even though I purchased it before I knew this stuff, I’m not sure I could stomach reading it. So the damage in terms of supporting the work has been done via dollars spent...


message 25: by Jemppu (new)

Jemppu | 1730 comments Michel wrote: "While I read a lot of Spirou albums in my youth, I didn't read LE RAYON NOIR. The authors of Spirou albums certainly struck me as much less racist than Hergé and I would say that their work has sur..."

Tome and Janry's run on the comic was definitely the most woke on the racial issues, BUT same could not be said of their treatment of women. The Petit Spirou spin-off series were the most blatant at treating the female characters as mere objects to be beheld.

HOWEVER, there were two instances I remember, where the series shone above usual kid's comics: (view spoiler) These were always my fave two, as cute examples of an adolescent kid discovering and naturally accepting the various kinds of people in his life - with the bright, unbiased eyes a kid would.


message 26: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Anthony wrote: "Allison wrote: "MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack of consensus!

..."


You're reading 13 books to get a glimpse of his writing? You are an excellent friend, sir!

Yes, I hadn't known about the allegations when I read Mists, and it was the only thing I got around to reading before I found out. I don't want to be presumptuous, but I would not recommend Mists to you. Many of my friends mourn The Firebrand as a particularly important book to their maturing to women. I don't know anything about it beyond that, but if you already had it, maybe it'd be less icky than Mists?


message 27: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Jemppu wrote: "Michel wrote: "While I read a lot of Spirou albums in my youth, I didn't read LE RAYON NOIR. The authors of Spirou albums certainly struck me as much less racist than Hergé and I would say that the..."

Wow, Jemppu, that really is unusual. And kind of goes back to what Cheryl was saying, where "basic civility" isn't something they invented sometime after the 1950s. I'll have to see if these books are available around here!


message 28: by Karin (last edited Aug 29, 2018 04:55PM) (new)

Karin | 773 comments This is an old problem and one that will continue probably as long as there are authors.

How about Plato who supported and encouraged pederasty with adult men and underage boys--today that's rape either directly or statutory. I read his entire works last year, and while a couple of the more famous ones don't bring this up, it comes up many times when Socrates is the main person. The main exception is his Laws because the Athenian Stranger supports only heterosexual sex.

When I was a child I didn't even think of the "Cowboys and Indians" people as real--there was no real connection in my mind with the "Indians" and the first nations friends I had until sometime in high school, although I was exposed to the American Civil Rights movement on the news. I didn't yet understand that that there were problems in Canada--my parents are quite liberal with friends of a variety of races, etc, and I never saw or heard anyone being picked on for their skin colour at school where it was Caucasians, Native Americans and 3 Japanese families (it wasn't whites back then, there were 4 races but with different demarcations than today--people from India were in the same race as white and many hispanic people, such as people from Spain, et al). The kids on the reserve lived close enough to walk to school so there weren't any on my bus at that age, and in high school they were on a different bus with some of my other friends in the other part of the village (we were bused to an entirely different town 14 miles away).

When it comes to moral issues, there are many problems besides the ones we have addressed. I grew up in the free love era, but I'm not okay with people cheating in monogamous relationships, or stealing from their employers or bilking their business partners and that goes for authors, actors, etc.

But, yes, when I see these problems in classics, I ditch them. I rarely reread books I liked as a child because even without these things, I often find I don't care for the same novels. BUT I don't ditch every book with a character who is racist, or committing adultery or stealing, etc, because it depends on the context of the novel and what the point of that is. There is a racist couple in Small Great Things, for example, and that is part of the whole point of the novel.


message 29: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2285 comments Re Jemppu msg 21:

I cannot stand rewritten or bowdlerized novels unless the author did it themself of their own enlightenment. It's erasure of history, and almost Orwellian.

The N word in Huckleberry Finn is a prime example. Remember, first, that the books was not written for children. And bear in mind that one of the biggest themes of the book is Freedom. Freedom from slavery, from intolerance, from convention. The N word serves an illustrative purpose, and just because I can't bring myself to type it here doesn't mean I want it erased from the book before I'll let my teenager read it.


message 30: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments Allison wrote: "Anthony wrote: "Allison wrote: "MrsJ, I read Mists when I was a bit older, and remember thinking "people find this feminist?!" so it goes to show you that even within an in-group, there can be lack..."

Re being a good friend, well I’m also assuming I’ll like them well enough to read them. She and I seem to have a lot of overlap in taste, so I imagine there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy them. Of course if I don’t like them I won’t subject myself to the whole thing.

And I will take your word for it re Mists. Ah well, dollars went toward it that I can now regret spending.


message 31: by CBRetriever (new)

CBRetriever | 4625 comments Could be worse: I have the whole Darkover series which i used to love but the author's history is bothering me big time

I remember loving Podkayne of Mars but then I started seeing reviews about the ending where Podkayne decides it's better to be a mother than a space captain (and more important) which kinda bummed me out


message 32: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments @Cheryl Huck Finn is a perfect example of context and author intent. I think that every shred of that book demonstrates that Twain abhorred slavery and the mistreatment and subjugation of black people. His use of the N word was not in any way a condoning of that word; the book was an argument against its reasons for being.


message 33: by Baelor (last edited Aug 29, 2018 08:47PM) (new)

Baelor | 73 comments First, the word "problematic" should be struck from the lexicon and replaced in context with whatever the specific fault is. Too often "problematic" is used to express some vague notion of unease without ever having to develop a more specific argument about what is objectionable. "Objectionable" serves the same function with more commitment, especially when followed with "on the basis of."

Second, the premise stated early on, that "what is the affected community saying about this work?", seems to be of dubious relevance. Regardless of how many Christians opposed the militant atheism present in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, their merit as literature remains the same.

More broadly, there has never been nor will ever be a book I am unwilling to read based on author or content. There are some books that are just terrible, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, and their poor quality has nothing to do with the nature of the content.

This is not to say that moral objections to literature cannot be noted (v. for example my review of Ringworld, but that content is hardly ever (at least for me) a disqualification. Indeed, I read literature to be exposed to different modes of thought, perspectives, and worldviews, regardless of whether I agree with them.


message 34: by Anna, Circadian heretic (last edited Aug 30, 2018 02:44AM) (new)

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Just a reminder:

Allison wrote: "We have a whole thread on problematic faves:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

This thread is more about "so, a book, irrespective of author, is problematic. What next?"



message 35: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (last edited Aug 30, 2018 05:14AM) (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
You do not have to seek out marginalized opinions if you don't want, Baelor! I often learn a lot about the experiences of others that way, and (selfishly) sometimes get some relief that a work isn't as "objectionable" as perhaps I'd feared. Frankly, when looking at problems or objections, I'm usually looking mostly at power structures rather than whether something could possibly offend anyone anywhere. So, the standard for a problematic book that focusing on organized Judaeo-Christian religion (as opposed to the plight of certain adherents) would get a different standard of review than, say, Heinlein's depiction of women and people of color.

That is, again, me, because I am thankfully only in one body with one set of biases and privileges, so if other people do it differently, that's totally fine. Tell me about what you do!


message 36: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2285 comments I finally read the actual article, and some of the comments, and I gotta say we're underway to having a more nuanced discussion right here.

Anyway, I had a strong reaction to one comment:
"21. sdzald
Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:45am 4 Favorites [+]
If we had to ditch all art from earlier times due to racial, sexual, political or cultural evils I would say that the bonfire of books, movies, paintings, etc, would set the world on fire...."

Maybe this would be a good thing? I mean, yes, the world is slowly getting to be a better place for most people, but sometimes it does seem like radical change (a metaphorical fire, you see, not book burning!) would be a good thing.

Ok, that was just my reaction to that thought as expressed in those words.


message 37: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2285 comments Allison wrote: "..I think this thread is more about "so, a book, irrespective of author, is problematic. What next?"
..."


I think maybe I'm not fully understanding this. What exactly do you want to explore as the core focus of this discussion?


message 38: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
I think the hope is that we'll focus less on individual authors and why we don't read them, and more on what we did after we realized there was something in the writing that made us uncomfortable, or as you're doing in post 36, responding to the article directly :)


message 39: by Cheryl (last edited Aug 30, 2018 06:06AM) (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 2285 comments Got it. Well, in the case of the classics, I think a significant number of us are looking at lesser-known books of the era. Now, the author of the article says 'look at all the new and better books, look at those written as responses to the classics, look at my book."

I say, look at the (relative) popularity of collections like Women of Wonder, the Classic Years: Science Fiction by Women from the 1940s to the 1970s, for example. Or at the diversity Bingo in this group, which (I assume) is open to reading from any era.

If we want to read something contextual to the historical era in which it was written, read something other than the well-known book. Read something from another culture perhaps, to gain a fresh perspective. E.g., what fantasy was being written in the Occidental world while Verne was producing his technological tales out of Europe? Or read something from a familiar author that has been made effectively invisible... read Louisa May Alcott's horror stories instead of Lovecraft's, or after you've read Shelley's Frankenstein read The Last Man....


message 40: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "Maybe this would be a good thing? I mean, yes, the world is slowly getting to be a better place for most people, but sometimes it does seem like radical change (a metaphorical fire, you see, not book burning!) would be a good thing."

I have this mixed reaction to things. Most of the time, I think careful conversation, respectful dialogue, discussing what hurts and how we do better in the future are so valuable that I don't want to take the potential catalysts away. But then people dig their heels in and say things like "get over it" or "it happened all the time, so it's fine" or other dismissive (or sometimes approving) comments and suddenly I'm with you, let's burn it all down.

So really, I think it's a balance. Talk it out. Or else. ;-)

I love your suggestions for what to do if you encounter a problem, Cheryl! Balancing, finding another perspective, seeking out ideas that maybe got shunted to the side sounds like a really good way to consider some of my own personal assumptions or biases in reading.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Baelor wrote: "First, the word "problematic" should be struck from the lexicon and replaced in context with whatever the specific fault is. Too often "problematic" is used to express some vague notion of unease w..."

I'll say no to this.

It's not the word's fault that people misuse it. It is a perfectly good word when used in its definition. The problem you have is people. That's not going to change - if we got rid of 'problematic' the issue will just shift to the word that takes its place.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Allison wrote: "I think the hope is that we'll focus less on individual authors and why we don't read them, and more on what we did after we realized there was something in the writing that made us uncomfortable, ..."

In thinking about this, here's what I did with my problematic authors:

-stop supporting them financially. Period. This includes stopping collecting their works. Especially for MZB as someone knowledgeable of her actions continues to receive profits from all of her IP and published works - MZB cut her children out and made her lover her beneficiary.

- Remove their works from my library collection. If it's just personally an issue, I gift the books. I did that with The Warded Man. That author will not redeem his works for me (my issues with him are in his works only) so there was no need to keep his book. For authors that I have a big problem with, those books get "trashed." I don't throw away books but I will leave them in free book piles and the like

- Educate other readers if the works/authors are especially offensive. This means that I will bring up MZBs criminal behavior in any conversation that she is a part of.

-in cases like with the Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew issue, I supported authors she had attacked and completely ignored her works. I don't care she's talented - she's a terrible person (or she plays one on the internets) and I'm not supporting her. I did buy The Other Half of the Sky and it's follow up in support - and found some authors so WIN.


message 43: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments @MrsJoseph I haven’t read The Warded Man yet but it’s in my queue. What were your issues with it?


message 44: by Trike (new)

Trike Baelor wrote: "First, the word "problematic" should be struck from the lexicon and replaced in context with whatever the specific fault is. Too often "problematic" is used to express some vague notion of unease w..."

The word adds nuance to the conversation. As MrsJoseph said, the real issue you have is with stupid people misusing the word. I know a few people who say “taunt” when they mean “taut”. It’s not the word that’s at fault, it’s people. Banning “taunt” is the wrong approach.

As I see it, an objectionable work is something that is clearly denigrating a group for the crime of existing.

A problematic work is one which may have been progressive for its time but has been passed by as the culture has moved on.

The post-apocalyptic novel Earth Abides, written in the 1940s, has a casual racism to it that only becomes clear at the end. The white male protagonist realizes that his female companion is black who can pass as white, but he kinda-sorta loves her anyway. In the racist vernacular of that era, that’s “mighty white of him”.

That’s problematic. Today it’s clearly on the wrong side of the racism line, but it isn’t the hate-and-rage racism of neo-Nazis and the KKK we first think of when we use the word “racism”. But considering the time the book was written, it actually leans toward the progressive. Ultimately Stewart is saying that miscegenation and segregation are dumb, even if he does it in a ham-handed and non-obvious way. He only implies that she’s black, due to her submissive nature and such. Probably because openly stating it would have provoked a backlash.

This kind of thing often opens up the argument of “situational ethics”, but all ethics are situational. It’s hard to see outside of our own circumstances, no matter what those are, and what is progressive for one culture seems ridiculously backward for other cultures. For example, Saudi Arabia allowing women to drive for the first time ever — in 2018.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Anthony wrote: "@MrsJoseph I haven’t read The Warded Man yet but it’s in my queue. What were your issues with it?"

His treatment of women and sexual assault.


message 46: by Anthony (new)

Anthony (albinokid) | 1471 comments MrsJoseph wrote: "Anthony wrote: "@MrsJoseph I haven’t read The Warded Man yet but it’s in my queue. What were your issues with it?"

His treatment of women and sexual assault."


Ah. I will read it cautiously, then. Thanks for the heads up.


MrsJoseph *grouchy* (mrsjoseph) | 2207 comments Anthony wrote: "MrsJoseph wrote: "Anthony wrote: "@MrsJoseph I haven’t read The Warded Man yet but it’s in my queue. What were your issues with it?"

His treatment of women and sexual assault."

Ah. I will read it..."


No problem.

Oh, I'll also say I had an issue with his treatment of brown people, too. But there's not a lot of that in book 1.


message 48: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 404 comments I actually boycott the work of a well-known fantasy author because said author was insulting to me. This is a personal boycott and I don't think anyone else needs to join it. That's why I don't mention the author's name. I'm saying this to show that people can have personal problems with authors that are just that.


message 49: by Oleksandr (last edited Aug 31, 2018 07:47AM) (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 831 comments I think it is wrong to weight pluses and minuses of a book and an author on the same scale. Take Orson Scott Card, I've read just two of his books and they were interesting works, with new ideas for me. Later I heard that he is anti-gay, but I haven't seen a homosexuality theme in books at all, so I am not sure that his views (whether I agree with them or not) should affect my reading. A person can be very bad and write great stuff, quite a few poets were that way.

p.s. as suggested, this line of discussion is better to be continued here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 50: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Oleksandr, that sounds like exactly the sort of comment that would be appropriate for the "problematic fave" post! Would you like to move it there please, or add to your comment to talk about what you do when you cannot either separate the author from their work or justify supporting them financially for their views?


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