Monday, May 23, 2011

Do You Judge A Book By The Book Or The Author?


For a very long time, my husband and I had a big disagreement. He refused to go to any movie with Cher in it. Why, you ask? He had an "irrational" dislike of Cher....my own quotation marks. Because I happen to like Cher. I think she's sassy, campy, sometimes kooky. All things that I like, and my husband (apparently) did not.

We argued about how you should only judge an actress on her acting ability, and not on the fact that she might wear inappropriate clothing "in real life." My feeling was, at that time, that an actor or singer or author should be judged solely on his creative talents, and any information that may be clouding the issue (he's a philanderer, she's a slut, he's a cheater, "in real life") should be left out of the equation.

And then came the whole "Tom Cruise Debacle."

I saw my share of Tom Cruise movies when I was younger. I followed his personal exploits in the entertainment news. But the deal-breaker for me was the photograph of Nicole Kidman being wheeled out of the hospital after having a miscarriage. Alone. Because her douchebag husband had dumped her and left her to suffer through a heart-breaking loss all by herself. Miscarriage is a touchy subject for me. The only thing that got me through my long string of painful miscarriages was the amazing love and support from my husband. (We now have two fabulous adopted kids, by the way).

After that, I decided never to watch another Tom Cruise movie. (My husband smirked.....See, now you know how I feel about Cher).

I was no longer judging Tom on his acting ability. I was judging him on something else. Right or wrong, I was allowing some other factor to cloud my decision to see one of his films.

In the past, we didn't know diddly about authors' real lives. They lived up on a mountain top somewhere cranking out novels for our reading pleasure. Now, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, message boards and the like, we have personal access to them every single day.

Which could be a good thing. I "chat" with certain authors on Twitter who are clever, gracious and fun. I love their books, and I am impressed with their public persona (which may also be their private persona, not sure).

However, this can also be a bad thing. Some authors have exhibited extremely poor behavior in public. Dissing other authors. Dissing reviewers. Becoming defensive, rude, and insulting to readers. Perhaps revealing "TMI"....I don't need to know when folks are menstruating, for example (hee hee!).

The new rules about self-promotion on the Amazon message boards have created a whole new dilemma for me. Lots of writers are (publicly) discussing how to "trick" readers, "sneak" in their promotion, circumnavigate the new rules. (Unfortunately, this includes fakes reviews, tagging, etc, a lot of sleazy stuff that makes me uncomfortable). One of the authors I saw contributing to this conversation was someone I read in the past. I really wish I hadn't seen this side of her, because I did truly enjoy her work.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to read any of her stuff again.

Ignorance was bliss in this case.

Right or wrong, I can't separate the "personal" side of authors and their writing talents. Which means that my barrel filled with "rejects" (Mel Gibson is in there, keeping Tom Cruise company) may be growing bigger and bigger. I'm just not comfortable giving my business to writers who are sleazing around, insulting folks, and/or dinging the reviewing community.

Thank God there are still many professional authors who seem to understand that good manners count for something. Cause they do count for me.

Penelope

21 comments:

Pearl said...

I always judge a book by the book itself. However, books by authors behaving really really badly will be less likely bought and read by me.

KB/KT Grant said...

Unfortunately because of the internet and people being vocal, it may lead to some behavior from authors readers may question.

In the past we had no clue what an author looked like or what they were like unless they were interviewed for a newspaper, magazine or tv show.

Authors have blogs, use twitter and are on message boards and unfortunately what they say may help a reader decide if they pick up their next book.

Penelope said...

Hi Pearl! Even if I hear that such-and-such book is a great read, if I happen to know that the author did something I really disagree with, I won't be buying the book. I only have so much money to spend on books, and I would rather give my money to folks who are professional. I might be missing out on some good books, but there you go.

Penelope said...

Hey KB! Yep, authors need to be hyper-aware that their behavior is being scrutinized now.

Amber Skyze said...

I'm guilty in movies and books! Authors definitely have to watch how they behave in public.

I've suffered miscarriages and the loss of a child so I agree you need your husband/partner to get through the pain. I can see why you left Tom behind.

Penelope said...

Hi Amber! Tom is a big schmo! I'm sorry you had miscarriages, too. It's so heart-breaking. I usually try not to be too judgmental....I always think, Well, maybe this person is just having a bad day. But sometimes it's more than a bad day! :^)

KMont said...

I don't think there's anything wrong at all with taking into account how authors act outside of writing. As Babs says, the internet makes us all vocal - and sometimes we see these things happening whether we want to or not. It's hard to filter out bad author behavior. It does tend to stick.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great story/post.

You're right. We use to not know much about authors.

Regarding your question:

Normally I don't and try not too.
However, if I hear something really bad about an author - I will avoid a book/author.

There was a YA author's husband several years ago that sorta verbally attacked a blogger online for not liking the book. After that debacle, I couldn't bear to read that writer.

Penelope said...

Hi Kmont! Sometimes I see an author apologize for bad behavior. Doesn't happen too often, but I am always impressed when I see that. It's the right thing to do.

Penelope said...

Hi Juju...that's a good example of bad behavior affecting book sales.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Penny - what a brave, honest post. I so admire you!
I think the horse has already left the barn. Authors and celebrities are human and they behave as stupidly as anyone else.
1. Tom Cruise - he lost me that day too. I cannot and will not watch one of his movies. In his defense, aside from Risky Business, I was never a big fan. He almost made up for his awful behavior by parodying himself in Tropic Thunder - almost.
2. Meg Ryan - lost me by leaving her husband under similar circumstances and then trashing her poor face...and I liked her! I need to remind myself that we are all guilty of making poor choices.
3. Authors - wow, we are a mixed bag. I honestly think I'd rather not know too much. Some authors really and truly are the way they seem. Some seem so very nice - but it's nothing more than a public persona. IRL they are awful people. Unfortunately, the internet provides us with so many outlets for shooting off our mouths.
I have such a long memory.
But here's an example of a celebrity I can forgive because he seems so torn up - Arnold. Yeah, what he did was awful and stupid, but he truly seems to be distraught over the breakup of his marriage. If you could see him in person, you'd see the physical and emotional toll this has taken on him. In comparison, Tom Cruise treated Nicole like she was gum on his very expensive shoe.

Penelope said...

Hi Julia! That brings up a very good point, which is that as far as celebrities go, we don't really know the whole truth. Maybe Nicole is horrible and Tom is a great guy? Who knows? That's why I try not to judge on stuff I don't know about for sure. But leaving a pregnant wife, and ignoring her when she loses a baby, are grounds for Judgment Day from Penelope! hee hee....

The recent problem with author stuff is that their comments are right out there for everyone to see. They can't hide it. Once they make horrible remarks, they are up for public consumption. Oy!

Who knows about Arnie...maybe his marriage will survive? Stranger things have happened.

Nadia Lee said...

What Pearl said. There are so many fabulous books out there. I don't have to buy ones by people who behave horribly / treat others badly.

bookloveroh said...

I try to let a book stand on its own merits, but there are times when what I know (or think I know!)about the author does influence me -- both to the good and the bad.

As an example -- I enjoy reading most of Lori Foster's books and decided to follow her on Facebook. Since "liking" her, I have seen what a gracious person she is. No bashing of bloggers/reviewers who do not like her titles. No going on and on about how people don't like her books.

She will post a link to reviews of her books and if they are not exactly stellar, she will say -- don't go to the site and bash the reviewer -- you win some, you lose some.
If I had not already enjoyed reading her titles, I would go out and try one just because of how she reacts to criticism/not-so-good reviews.
You can be disappointed over a so-so review and still keep your perspective -- and be gracious in doing so.

Penelope said...

Hi Nadia! That is exactly how I feel, too!

Penelope said...

bookloveroh.....thanks so much for leaving this nice, positive comment about Lori Foster. I love hearing good things about authors behaving well! She sounds lovely.

heidenkind said...

I can usually disassociate the finished product from its creator. For example, all of the Impressionists were contemptible human beings, but that doesn't mean I can't objectively see their art as beautiful or meaningful. Will I go absolutely fangirlish for them? Eh, probably not.

If I haven't read any books by a writer and they start to annoy me online, I admit I'm much less likely to go out and buy their books. But if I know I enjoy their writing style already, they're going to have to do something pretty distasteful for me to swear them off forever.

Penelope said...

Hi heidenkind! Luckily, none of my all time favorite writers have done anything really douche-y, or I'd be super bummed.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I guess I fall in the ignorance is bliss category. I tend to avoid finding out too much about an author, although I've friended a few on Facebook. I don't have a twitter account and I don't spend a lot of time on author's blogs - all for the reason I'm afraid they'll do something I would frown upon and it will affect the way I feel about their writing! Just like what's happened to you! Now, of course, I'm all crazy curious to know which authors in particular you're talking about! *wiggling eyebrows* But, on the other hand, I don't want to know. As a famous literary hearthrob once said, "My good opinion once lost is lost for ever."

Penelope said...

Julie, You are so sensible! I spend way too much time on-line, which I need to rectify. I want my blissful state of ignorance back, darn it! :^)

yaquelin said...

this is exactly how I feel no matter how good Brad Pitt may be in the movies I can't forget he dumped his wife for a new lady. I don't care if she had it coming or whatever this forever affects me when I see him in a movie. If you are a public figure unfortunetely you must act the part at all times!!