Taking Writers Personally


I just got a few chapters into Philip Kerr's Shout and put it down. The lead character enjoyed homophobic and mysogynous asides that were given no context. I saw no reason to continue in his company - and came to doubt the writer. I doubted that I would find a man who let loose such opinions in his books likeable in real life.

Some years ago an editor I had targetted for what I thought would be her sympathy for my work rejected it. In the letter to my agent she included the line that from reading the book she found she had taken a real dislike to me personally. I objected to this at the time, but now see that I also choose my books in order to keep company with the writer. Writers truly are revealed in their work ... when I like a book I generally sense I would like the man or woman behind it, which has always turned out to be true on the occasions I've come to know the writers in 'real life'.

I give up on books more frequently than I used to. I've grown more picky about the company I keep. And I'm coming to accept that some readers love the version of me they find in my books, while others loathe me. Maybe I should keep a list of writers I have taken against through their books and send it out to those who take against me. Those writers and readers might well get along, and after all that's what we're all after.

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