Jerks Are Jerks

Good thing there’s plenty of nice, sane, excellent writers in the world.

Chris McLaren considers how much easier it is for knowledge of the artist to contaminate the experience of the art these days:

I’m not sure what the conclusion is here. For authors, the obvious conclusion is to be mindful of the potential effect of your online persona on your audience. For me, in the audience, there isn’t as obvious a conclusion. Maybe I just need to reconcile myself again to the fact that the artist and art are different, and try not to be so shocked when an artist reveals himself to be very different from my mental idea of who they are. I’m not sure I can do anything about the related bias question, or even if I should feel like I should do anything about it.

And he gives examples, which is always the fun part.

6 thoughts on “Jerks Are Jerks”

  1. I think once the artist spells out his/her personal motivations (especially those behind a piece of writing), it’s harder to enjoy the writing on its own terms (which are mostly my terms, I guess, since I have only my own baggage to inform me). And that’s true even if I agree with the writer!
    However, it doesn’t stop me from reading author blogs. I like knowing what the author thinks and how that informed their book. (And if it turns out they are completely batty or egotistical or absolutely despise the things I hold dear, then no, I won’t be as able to read their books.)
    On a side note, my husband and I found a similar problem with DVD commentary tracks. Sometimes they’re wonderful, an illuminating insight into the creative process (e.g., Emma Thompson on Sense & Sensibility), sometimes they’re just boring (Big Trouble in Little China), but when they’re awful, they detract from what was otherwise a fine film (e.g., Wim Wenders’s commentary on Wings of Desire, which we can no longer watch). But once you’ve watched that commentary track, your view of the film changes.

  2. I know just what you mean, Darice. Especially about commentaries, which I tend to avoid. The last time I remember watching one that made me go “huh?” was Donnie Darko and that guy just thought he was making a WAY less interesting movie.
    Although I’m actually guilty of just deciding “Oh-kay, I know enough about this person to despise them either actively or inactively and I know there’s a lot of other really great stuff in the world so I’ll just focus on the other really great stuff unless and until someone I really respect who knows how I feel about this person tells me that said despised has written/created a truly exceptional life-changing thing”; then I might bend. I can be crotchety and set in my ways.

  3. Your second paragraph captures exactly why these impressions are so important–there is no shortage of good stuff out there, so why should I work uphill against my bias to read someone’s stuff when I could be reading something great where I don’t have to?

  4. I just don’t see the difference between this and the guy who prefers his news from a source that sees things the way they really are: like Fox News.

  5. This is interesting to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that sometimes my wife will say, “Well, you can be sure no conservative republicans are going to buy your books now” after I write something on my blog about how X conservative republican should be eaten alive by flesh eating varmints for doing whatever it is said person is doing. And I used to think of this when I wrote a weekly column in print, too, that what I was saying personally in my column would impact my fiction. And then I think about how meeting some of my literary heroes and finding them to be assholes as changed the way I read them and I wonder if I’m now an asshole to a fan and…well…it all gets very existenstial then, but my point is that i wonder if the trade off I make in being closer to my readers now changes my opportunity to attract new ones who otherwise might be turned off by my personality and politics and use of the word fucktard.

  6. News and art aren’t the same thing. At least, they shouldn’t be.
    Now, if we were to personify Fox News, I’m sure I’d feel the same way I do about it already — I’d avoid that person like the plague. Anyway, it seems to me almost the reverse. In many instances here, we’re talking about finding out the philosophy/politics/etc of someone are despicable. I think it’s reasonable to not financially support the art product of someone with the views on gay rights of Orson Scott Card. Just as my friend Max boycotts advertisers on Fox News. Etc. That’s about the closest comparison I can make on this between news and art. I’m pretty comfortable asserting that not buying art made by someone who you despise (again, actively or inactively, for whatever reasons) doesn’t make you a close-minded bigot. It just makes you an informed consumer. 🙂
    Tod — Think about all those far superior readers who are cheered by your exposure of the fucktards of the world. And anyway, humor buys you some slack. You’re probably okay unless your future career plans involve penning weighty nonfiction tomes about war heroes or books about the B-I-B-L-E.
    Honestly, except for instances of sheer idiocy exposed on the Internet, I tend to distrust what I learn online — at least about people. Most of the people whose work I avoid are people who I personally know to be assholes. And there aren’t that many, really. I tend to avoid assholes.

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