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 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.