A word on politics and art

Earlier I mentioned Orson Scott Card’s tirade against gay marriage. I titled the post “Orson Scott Card: another sci-fi author I won’t be reading.”

At Bookslut, Jessa Crispin aruges that a book should be evaluated independently of the author’s politics. Kitabhkana agrees. Both are fans of Card’s work.

I rarely read science fiction or fantasy books. I like William Gibson, Ursula LeGuin, Philip K. Dick, sometimes H.G. Wells, and Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, With Occasional Music, if those count. They probably don’t. I read the Dune books when I was a kid but would probably find them unreadable now. I have the vague, nagging feeling that I’m doing myself a disservice by neglecting Neal Stephenson and a handful of others.

Max’s shelves are filled with sci-fi books (although he would like me to note that he’s not particularly a fan of Orson Scott Card’s work). Occasionally I try them out, but I rarely finish. Ditto fantasy, save the likes of A.S. Byatt and Roald Dahl and Stephany Aulenback. Someone gave me a copy of The Anubis Gates back in college and after reading fifty pages I was so turned off by the prose (and, believe me, I use that word loosely) that I nearly set fire to it.* (Instead I walked up a flight of stairs to the honors boys’ commons area and left it there. It was gone within 10 minutes.)

In short, I generally don’t read science fiction, sometimes because I don’t think it’s well-written, but more often because it just doesn’t move me.

I wouldn’t necessarily avoid a writer’s work based on his or her politics — and I wouldn’t “boycott” a book or call for anyone else to do so because an author’s beliefs are offensive to me personally. But absent some independent reason for believing that the book would resonate for me, I might be less likely to pick it up. That’s particularly true when, as here, it’s a work I would have been unlikely to read in any event.
 

Mark Sarvas is considering the larger picture of politics in literature. If you have thoughts about that, do share them in his comments section.

* Okay, it’s true that I read Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels when I was twelve. But I read them purely for the sex scenes.


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