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Books / Writing > If you really knew the author....

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message 1: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) I'm currently listening to the audiobook The Expected One written by Kathleen McGowan. She claims that she is a direct descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. Writing this book was her way of telling her story without having to expose her sources. Several of the reviewers commented about her personal bias and how it affected their overall view of the book.

Another example of an author with a past is Perry, Anne. She, along with her friend, murdered her friend's mother. She was portrayed by Kate Winslet in the movie Heavenly Creatures which was based on the case.

Are you influenced by the author's personal life when you read a book, or is that irrelevant to you?

message 2: by Helena (new)

Helena | 1058 comments If I have strong feelings about a book, either way, I'll research the author after reading it. I've found that a particularly interesting author might overshadow their work a bit for me. Kind of like Oscar Wilde, I think I like him better than his writing. So, I guess I'd rather go in blind :D

message 3: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. With most of the books I read, I don't think I even know all that much about the author before I read them. I might know an author is a Scottish lesbian but no more. Or with someone like Willa Cather, I know a little about her life story, but not a whole lot. With Wilkie Collins, I know he was friends with Charles Dickens, and he strongly supported social causes that helped women in abusive situations, and some of his novels concern that. With Edith Wharton, I know that she wasn't just pulling all that wealthy society stuff from nowhere; that was her life, and her upbringing. She knew whereof she spoke. Usually what I know about the writers is at the back of my mind while I'm reading, not the forefront.

If I find out someone is a major league douche, that will most likely color what I read of them.

message 4: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
I feel like I like John Updike much more than his writing.

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Really? I like Updike's books, but I always found him a little stiff, guarded, and self-important in interviews.

message 6: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
I've only read one of his novels, which apparently left little impression, as I can't remember it. I've read more of his criticism, which I often find hard to read, long, circuitous sentences. (I have a Truman Capote quote I'll have to post.) The Rabbit novels are in the present tense, so I won't read them. I like some of his poems. One about his dead mother was very touching. I think my sense of his personality comes from what his friends and colleagues have written about him, that he was kind, courtly, gentlemanly. I don't specifically remember any interviews. I've always enjoyed his elegant, waspish looks.

message 7: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 13, 2011 10:17PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments His book reviews for the New Yorker seemed to aim for a self-consciously unadorned style, as if to say the book under discussion is the focus, not me. I always appreciated that about him. Also that he would always give a fair and clear account of a book's argument (generally using direct quotations) even if he ultimately disagreed with it. There are few critics working today who are that conscientious. Most seem to want to be ego bloggers and end up abusing the platform that has been provided by whatever publication they work for.

Updike's art criticism for the NYRB was interesting, in part because he was learning as he went along. Unfortunately, he often got bogged down in personalities and gave scant attention to the actual artworks under discussion.

message 8: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
Hmm, maybe we disagree on the meaning of "unadorned." I always found his New Yorker style festooned with filigrees.

message 9: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
From Conversations with Capote.

Q: What do you think of John Updike, another possible future Nobel winner?

A: I’m sure he will. I hate him. Everything about him bores me. He’s like a piece of mercury, you put a drop in your hand and you try to hold onto it. It’s running this way and that way and you can’t grab hold of it, you can’t figure out what it’s all about as it runs through your fingers. Anyway, he’s so mannered. There’s such a thing as a style, there’s such a thing as a stylist. I consider myself a stylist. I consider him a mannered style, not a stylist, because it isn’t even something that’s his own. It’s just that everything is always twisted in a certain way. You can hear how hard vocabulary is working, you become so conscious of it, so aware of it in his writing in a story that you lose, absolutely, contact with the story because of your awareness of how he’s twisting a sentence, the unnaturalness of rhyme and rhythm toward this mannered thing of his which, to me, completely deadens his writing. And has from the first time I ever read his book The Poorhouse Fair. The moment I read that book I realized what it was, what was wrong with his writing, and my mind has never changed one little bit. He’s only increased it and increased it and given it more density all the time. I told him how much I disliked his writing.

Q: When?

A: You know the National Institute of Arts and Letters? We’re both members and we were sitting on the stage together. They were giving out all the prizes and awards. He was talking to me and I said, “You know, John, that personally I can’t stand your writing.”

Q: Did he laugh?

A: No, he didn’t laugh at all. I said, “I don’t care whether you like it or dislike it or anything, I don’t like your writing. I never have. So there’s no point in continuing this discussion whatsoever.” I think he thought I was crazy. I was just bored with having to go on.

message 10: by Jonathan (last edited Feb 13, 2011 10:49PM) (new)

Jonathan Lopez | 4728 comments Well, a bit unkind, but that was Truman Capote.

What I mean by unadorned, in the context of Updike's criticism, is that he didn't attempt the same flashes of style, what Capote calls "mannerisms," that show up so often in his fiction and which, personally, I could take or leave. You're right: the sentences in his criticism are sometimes too long, even a bit lazy, in that they could be tightened up and simplified, but they get the job done of conveying ideas and drawing attention to whatever book is being discussed. An entirely different approach would be that of Adam Gopnik, whose art criticism is always about himself, how smart he is, and more specifically how much smarter his is than his peers, who are not nearly so smart as he--and by the way, did you know that his son is smart as whip too? Updike had his faults, but that type of wearying intellectual narcissism wasn't among them.

message 11: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
Gopnik is a toad, no question.

message 12: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments I make it a policy of doing my best to separate the author/artist as a person from his/her works. Depending on the immediacy of what I know, it's not always easy (think Mel Gibson). But in the end, if you go on strike against the artist, the only one who potentially is being punished is yourself.

message 13: by Michele (new)

Michele bookloverforever (lovebooks14) | 1970 comments Anne Perry a murderer? Was she charged and tried? convicted? I read her Thomas Pitt & Charlotte series religiously for a very long time and just recently traded them into a used book store for credit. I owned them for 15 years!

message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments She was a teenager. The movie "Heavenly Creatures" is about it. Really, it doesn't bother me too much. Clearly she's rehabilitated.

message 15: by Ken (new)

Ken (playjerist) | 721 comments Ah, the beauty of the Bookstore Reading and Signing: where readers and authors confront their surprisingly disgusting counterparts.

message 16: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Orson Scott Card is the one I can't separate from his hateful speech anymore. I don't have any desire to meet him or to read any more of his books.

message 17: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Yeah, I agree with you about OSC, but I didn't really like his books that much.

Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) I've only read Ender's Game myself. Know nothing about him other than he's Mormon.

message 19: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
Mark Helprin is an author whose works I've really liked. Apparently he has right wing political tendencies, which I didn't know at the time I read him, and which doesn't make me not want to read more of him, but the Post's book critic Michael Dirda said he couldn't read Helprin because of it.

message 20: by Aynge (new)

Aynge (ayngemac) | 1202 comments What does OSC say that's full of hate? I have one of his books but haven't read it yet.

message 21: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) Lots of stuff, Aynge. Google it.

message 22: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments He doesn't believe in global warming or same sex marriage, and actively campaigns against advocates of both.

message 23: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I loved Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale so much. I'm actively avoiding knowing more about his politics.

message 24: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) I gave up reading The Expected One but it had nothing to do with her personal viewpoint. It wasn't all that well written and I got bored with it. I really wanted to enjoy this book because I'm interested in the subject matter.

message 25: by Jammies (new)

Jammies So is anyone going to stop reading Dilbert because Scott Adams just admitted to sock-puppethood? I haven't read Dilbert since I stopped working in corporate America, but I know it's still a pretty popular strip.

Oh, and I love, love, love that someone from Gawker called Adams a "tumescent ego balloon"!

message 26: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
I've never been a Dilbert reader, but now I'm not going to start. He had a WSJ piece a while back that made me think he was kind of an arrogant a-hole.

message 27: by Louise (new)

Louise If an author tries to heavily propaganda certain things through his/her literature, it can turn me off them/their work. It can be political or religious stuff, gender issues etc.
It's annoying if "the issue" gets in the way of the story/the quality of writing, and if it's something I disagree about, it just makes it worse.

message 28: by Michael (new)

Michael Jammies wrote: "So is anyone going to stop reading Dilbert because Scott Adams just admitted to sock-puppethood? I haven't read Dilbert since I stopped working in corporate America, but I know it's still a pretty..."

With some notable Tc exceptions I generally don't care for online aliases and I really don't like it in his case and reading his defense he sounds like a dick. I have a Dilbert cartoon up in my cube that someone gave me about stress being another word for knowledge and filtering all knowledge out and maybe I'll take it down so I can get in on the ground floor of a possible boycott.

message 29: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I don't really like Dilbert but he comes across as quite the douche in that interview.
Scott Adams wrote: "The same thing is happening today with a Republican official who emailed some friends a humorous photo of President Obama's face on a chimp and a punch line about his birth certificate. If your only context is what the Internet says about this story, you assume it's a typical racist act by a Republican who is already guilty by association. But if I add the context that Googling "George Bush monkey" gives you over 3 million hits, and most of them are jokes where President Bush's face is transposed on a monkey, you see what's really going on. Democrats and advocates of civil rights are using the media to further an agenda at the expense of a woman who was probably so non-racist that the photo in question didn't set off her alarms as being a career-ending risk. "

If he doesn't see that there is a loaded value to putting Obama's face on a monkey that isn't there if you do the same thing to Bush is tone-deaf to culture and history.

message 30: by Lila (new)

Lila | 146 comments I have never paid any attention to who the author really is. I know a tiny bit about my two favorite authors but what I do know mostly came off the dust jacket of their books.
Now I'm thinking about it...

message 31: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
Sarah Pi wrote: "I don't really like Dilbert but he comes across as quite the douche in that interview.
Scott Adams wrote: "The same thing is happening today with a Republican official who emailed some friends a h..."

Anyone who reasons this way is a flat out idiot. I would excuse a 13 year old who made the comparison. Not an adult. No excuse.

I read that the woman who circulated the latest email had been a recipient of that other email from a couple years (?) ago, from another Republican official, that contained Obama and the watermelon. So she saw all the condemnation that email got - and she still couldn't stop herself from sending her own racist email? Weird, it's almost like they don't care everyone knows they're racist.

message 32: by Jaimie (new)

Jaimie (jez476) | 664 comments Sarah Pi wrote: "I loved Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale so much. I'm actively avoiding knowing more about his politics."

I need to put that a little higher on my next to read list. I've had it for a while.

message 33: by Jaimie (new)

Jaimie (jez476) | 664 comments I used to be really obsessed with Anne Rice. Ask me anything about her. This used to be ok because she lived quite a morbid life, it fit well with her books. Now with all the going back and forth about being a Christian, I don't think I could read anything else by her. Even if she revived the Vampire Chronicles.

message 34: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24105 comments Mod
A.J. Finn (a pseudonym) wrote The Woman in the Window. His real name is Dan Mallory and it turns out he's a serial liar and also plagiarized the story (in the novel) from a 1995 movie, Copycat with Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter.

He told many people over many years that his mother died of cancer (she's still alive), that he had brain cancer (he didn't), that he was in the hospital having brain cancer surgery, he sent people fake emails purportedly coming from his brother about how he was recovering from surgery, which actually came from him; he told people he had a PhD from Oxford (he attended but didn't finish the program), and other lies. He invented job offers from other publishers to leverage promotions and raises at his job, he may have left cups of his urine around his boss's office. (the cups of urine stopped appearing once he had left the job.) Lots of manipulating and gaslighting!

This very long article describes his deceptions.


message 35: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 3389 comments Reminds me of James Frey.

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