My lovely wife just read a book called Dickens in Love about Dickens’s love affair with Ellen Ternan. “I didn’t know he was such a creep,” she said. Well, yeah. Lots of writers are solipsistic jerks, and lots of them have obnoxious political positions.
One quite reasonable interpretation of the scant documentation of Shakespeare’s life is that he was a money-grubbing, social-climbing adulterer.
Lord Byron probably slept with his half-sister, among many other offenses.
Knut Hamsun (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature) called Hitler “a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations.”
I read a bit of Orson Scott Card back in the 80s. I enjoyed Ender’s Game, although I don’t recall thinking it was anything like a classic. At some point I gave up on Card because I thought there was something weird about his treatment of violence. I haven’t been paying attention to him since then, so I didn’t realize he was beyond-bonkers homophobic, to the point of advocating violent revolution to prevent gay marriage:
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
The movie version of Ender’s Game is coming out in a few months, and people are making noises about boycotting it. In response, the terrified filmmakers say the movie and the book have nothing to do with gay issues, and, as the 16-year-old star cleverly puts it, “You can’t blame a book for its author.”
Absolutely true. On the other hand, Card is still among us, and Dickens, Shakespeare, Byron, and Hamsun are not. He makes money any time we purchase one of his works. And he hasn’t been shy about expressing his opinions and trying to affect public policy. There are plenty of good books to read and good movies to watch (well, I could be wrong about the supply of good movies). I can’t think of any reason to support Card’s career.
By the way, here’s Dickens’s mistress, Ellen Ternan:
And here’s Byron’s half-sister, Augusta Leigh:
And here’s a very unpleasant-looking Knut Hamsun: