Enjoy Your Favorite Jackass!

Novel Progress

Writing is easy. Rewriting is NOT NOT NOT! I am continuing to fill out the details and locating the characters in time and space. This means working with all the fiddly-bit details that are necessary but not very sexy to write.


Some wonderful artists are terrible, terrible people.

For instance, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. There is no question on how wonderful his children’s books are. There is also no question that he had an affair while his wife was dying of cancer, thus driving his wife to suicide. He married his mistress shortly afterwards. They then ditched his new wife’s kids from a previous marriage because “Ted would not have been happy with them.”

Or take Beethoven, who was one of the world’s greatest composers, but also terribly cruel to everyone around him, especially family. Woody Allen was a terrifically good stand-up comic before he became a movie director, and at the same time very probably molested some of his kids. F. Scott Fitzgerald plagiarized from his wife and when she complained, he got her locked up in a mental institution.

Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein were both anti-semetic Nazi sympathizers. Gustave Flaubert was a pedophile, and Lewis Carroll may have been one as well. Lord Byron committed incest. “Le Morte d’Arthur” was written by extortionist, thief, murderer, and rapist Thomas Malory.

Ayn Rand was a selfish, egocentric hypocrite with absolutely no knowledge about the economic systems she purported to be an expert on. She was cruel and sublimely selfish without an ounce of self-reflection, and bullied other people into having sex with her.*

So, all of these people are terrible. But I have enjoyed (some of) their works before. So the questions is: how much does my knowledge of how terrible these people were/are affect my ability to enjoy whatever they create?

In one case (*cough*Rand*cough*) I don’t think I could enjoy their works any less, but in others it can make it difficult.

Does one put away whatever they enjoyed and find a new playmate, or do they dissociate the author from the work?

I tend to dissociate, especially with dead artists. Even though in most cases you can’t even excuse them in the light of their times (e.g. rape has always been bad, murder has always been bad, theft has always been bad, etc.), sometimes you can SORT OF edge your way around it (e.g. anti-semitism is terrible, but it was more prevalent at the time and had no social stigma and no holocaust to inform it, ages of consent were different a very long time ago and there was no concept of “childhood” as we define it now, etc. )

This is not to excuse the horribleness of their actions or thought. It’s just to give a reason for their acceptance of their own idiocy.

Live artists are more problematic. I used to really enjoy Woody Allen’s writing. Not so much his movies, which I see as copy-cat essays from better directors. But his books like “Without Feathers” are hilarious. But I don’t want to give him any more of my money. I don’t think he’s going to suddenly go broke because I won’t give him $10. But I also don’t want to associate myself with him anymore.

That doesn’t change the fact that his one act play “God” is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

So sometimes you have to ignore the creator while appreciating the creation. After all, Richard Wagner was a horrible person, but without him we would never have gotten the irreplaceable artistic gem of “Kill The Wabbit.”

It’s not a matter of glossing over who that person was or what they believed they represented. It’s a matter of ignoring that person and realizing that sometimes the art is FAR better than its creator.

Are there any artists whose works you adore but who you wouldn’t pee on if they were on fire?


* Please note that Ayn Rand is not a wonderful artist. She’s a terrible writer with a tone deaf ear, no gift for dialogue, uniform gray in her descriptions, and given to long screeds that go no where and read like first drafts of Adolph Hitler’s speeches. I’m just including her in this list because she’s a hit with the poli-sci majors who haven’t taken any economics courses yet.