June 2024
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BTT: Too Much Information

btt2Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse – a biography has made you love an author more?

Actually, no to both.  I don’t normally read biographies of authors, for one thing. I suppose I would if I was interested in reading more non-fiction, but at the moment I’m getting plenty of that.  I do find their lives interesting, but in general I’m not a huge fan of history after the 15th century, which is before the development of the novel (and before a comprehensive biography of almost any author could be composed anyway).  So that puts me off right to start.  Secondly, I commented on this at Maw Books Blog a while ago, and I firmly believe we should separate the art from the artist.  Just because an author has horrible beliefs or has done horrible things doesn’t make his/her work bad, and it goes the other way around too, because you can be a fabulous person but incapable of writing valuable works.    I’m sure a number of authors had opinions we’d all be firmly against now because it was commonplace then.  So we’d have to eliminate whole swathes of literature.  Honestly, just think about what Chaucer must have believed; many of us have discovered that the medieval period was a whole different world, but that doesn’t make The Canterbury Tales less valuable.

So, learning that an author has horrible beliefs would definitely put me off the person and I wouldn’t want to meet them, but if they kept that belief out of their work and it was still interesting and entertaining, I would read it.  Normally, I won’t even know, so this is not a big issue for me.  I can’t ever recall a time when I liked an author’s work more for knowing something about them.


6 comments to BTT: Too Much Information

  • I’ve just added the following edit to my blog post on this topic: I absolutely believe that a horrible person can be a brilliant writer. Knowing that the author is a horrible person may cool my desire to read more by him or her, but wouldn’t stop me from reading if I truly loved his or her books. I don’t believe in banning books or authors.

  • I think that some knowledge about an author’s life might give you more insight into their work but no, I don’t think that it has made be either want to read their work or made me not want to read it. Hopefully what they write is separate or maybe beyond their personal life experience alone.

  • I don’t generally read biographies of authors either, so I would say no too.

  • I agree – if I learned something really horrible about an author, I might not want to spend time with the person. But I don’t think it would affect my opinion of the work. Some of my favorite books were written by people I probably wouldn’t want to pal around with.

  • I agree completely! Art should always be separate from the artist. You can never look at the art in the same way as the creating artist anyway. I touched on that when I wrote about Andrew Wyeth’s passing.

  • I believe in separating art from the artist too, but I confess I can have trouble doing so sometimes. But if anything is likely to bother me, it’s not the author’s personal ideology in itself, but what can be seen in the books (always taking historical context into account, of course).