Most people would agree that Frank Sinatra had a wonderful voice. Think of ‘Strangers in the Night ‘ with its lush romance or ‘New York, New York!’ – so full of life. He was stylish and popular for at least five decades. But would you want him as a friend? Or could you see him as a hero?
Possibly not, if the stories about his involvement with the Mafia are true. But you wouldn’t dismiss his musicianship because of some dodgy views, would you?
That brings me to writers. Many of us would say what we write reflects who we are. It’s hard to argue with that. Yet, as a reader, how does it affect my respect for an author if their opinions are repugnant?
“I was in the schooling system for 20 years off and on between 1968 and 1992 and never saw any ‘support staff’. They seem to have been a recent invention.
Teachers managed without them for 120 years or more. In times of austerity they are a luxury and teachers can manage without them again.”
Terry Deary on Teaching Assistants
His ‘Horrible History’ books have encouraged the enjoyment of the past in so many children – but his off-the-cuff remarks on this and other subjects irritate a fair few. Does this make me less likely to recommend his work? Possibly – but I’m not sure it should.
Guardian blaming owners of grouse moors for flooding the lower classes is the best chippy classs-war bollocks I`ve heard -even from them.
How about this? I love much of Susan Hill’s work – I have done a complete structural analysis of ‘The Woman in Black’ , always re-read ‘Lanterns across the Snow’ each Christmas and frequently cook her Red Cabbage dish. I admire her enormously – but find myself at variance with her opinions. And that’s fine. As a forthright Yorkshire woman, I expect she can cope with debate.
I would not want anyone automatically censored for their views. I would not boycott ‘Ender’s Game’ despite Orson Scott Card’s views on homosexuality. I think argument and discussion are the key.
Nonetheless, there is a fly in my liberal ointment. How do I reconcile someone vile who also creates something worthwhile?
My immediate example is William Mayne. I was entranced by Earthfasts – based in the legend of the Drummer Boy of Richmond – and I still have a soft spot for his Hob books. Yet this man used his credentials as a children’s author to further his paedophilia. His books were rightly withdrawn whilst he was alive.
Now I would argue they should be revisited.
This is where the concept of the Muse comes in for me. She chooses whom she wishes to create through. Her channels are not of our choosing. It’s a pleasure when a favourite author is a lovely human being too – but they don’t have to be. Their books are not them distilled.
This gives me hope – that however muddled my thinking and however self-deluded I may be, good work can come via me.