We all expect our favorite rock stars to be not very nice people – in fact, we almost demand it. Usually the rocker in question is happy to oblige (for a striking example, read Crystal Zevon’s wonderful biography of her late ex-husband Warren Zevon).
What about our writers? As readers, what standards do we set for those authors with whom we forge a rather intimate bond through their novels? And, why do we care so much when these standards are not met? Sam Schulman explores this question in a fascinating essay found at incharacter.org.
“A great majority of us have done discreditable, even cruel things in our lives, even after we have ceased to be children. And the great majority of that majority find it in our hearts to forgive ourselves, and to think more about how we have been injured than the injuries we have made. But it seems to matter more when a writer or artist behaves badly. Why should it? If my dentist loves one of his daughters more than any of his other children, or a Boeing engineer is having an affair with her best friend’s husband, it is cruel. But their cruelties don’t impair the quality of my bridgework or disturb my tendency to sleep peacefully through take-offs and landings. Why does the bad character of a writer or artist matters so much more? And how does ‘mattering’ work?”
Read the entire essay here.