Friday, October 4, 2013

Corrections intro: Hate the author, love the novel

WELCOME to the first post of The Corrections readalong!

For this first post, I guess normally the plan is to introduce yourself. Except we sort of already all know each other so that's probably a waste of time. Instead, let's talk about Franzen and why we're doing this. Or hesitations we may have about the book. It's almost like an AA meeting.

I'm reading The Corrections because I bought it almost 3 full years ago (October 10, 2010) on my way back home from a friend's wedding. I had finished whatever book I brought with me and was browsing one of the airport bookshops. I didn't know much about Franzen. This was still early in my book blogging days. I just knew I'd seen the cover, and the summary looked like something I'd be into. Then for whatever reason, I ended up not starting the book during my flight home. Probably cos of the massive hangover I was also nursing. I got about 5 pages in before I quit. I tried again last year for the Smooth Criminals reading challenge and yeah, that worked out just as well. I'm hoping the readalong is the thing.

I'm hosting it because Laura said it's my turn.

As for my hesitations. Well...

Is it possible to enjoy a novel if the author is a doucheface?

Short answer: Yes
Long answer: Well, most of the time...

The way I see it there are 2 general types of douchefaces:
Douchefaces who just seem like they'd be unpleasant to hang out with but aren't necessarily terrible people
Douchefaces who are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic various other -ists and -phobics and overall seem like just awful people

This can be further broken down into 2 groups:
Douchefaces who are alive
Douchefaces who are dead

And because seeing Tina Fey host SNL made me realize how much I miss Liz Lemon, I'll let her demonstrate my emotions towards these different doucheface authors

Unpleasant & Dead
Let's say we have a doucheface who isn't awful, merely unpleasant, and they're dead. Well, that's pretty easy. There are lots of people I don't really want to hang out with. I'm pretty sure that's the majority of the world, so you'd be very busy if you constantly let it get to you. And they're dead so you won't have to listen to them being obnoxious in any new interviews. Think of this as Charles Dickens. He (as I learned from Alice) was very openly an ass to his wife. But he's not getting into any new family abandonment shenanigans what with being dead and all, and you can read his stuff with a clear conscious.

Liz Lemon Level:

Unpleasant & Alive
Next, what if we have the merely-unpleasant doucheface and s/he's also still hanging around? Other than causing spontaneous eye-rolls whenever you read their latest complaint about whatever is pissing them off at the moment or maybe they're the Lindsay Lohan/Charlie Sheen of the literary world and you just watch them make new and exciting bad decisions while you continue to enjoy their early work. Maybe you don't want to encourage their behavior and buying their new books/keeping them relevant is, in a long distance kind of way, encouraging this. But whatever. This is where Franzy* falls. He may bitch and moan about how terrible Twitter is or how he can't stand TV and doesn't even OWN one** but that doesn't really affect his writing. We're still in no harm/no foul territory.

Liz Lemon Level:

Awful & Dead
Now we get into more complicated territory. What if the doucheface author in question was an awful person? But the key word there is WAS cos now they're dead. Perhaps they were horrible racists. And vocal ones at that. Maybe they were some of the original "make me a sandwich" sexists, or whatever some historical equivalent of that would be. But the bad (wo)man is gone now and can't hurt you any more. Think of this as Flannery O'Connor. She apparently loved her some racist jokes and had no problem pissing off her Civil Rights Activists friends with them. It may be uncomfortable cos you want to love the authors as much as you love their work. But you know what, it's fine. You can hate what the person stood for, but they aren't around to keep being terrible so you don't have to worry about supporting their hatred.***

Liz Lemon Level:

Awful & Alive
Finally we have the worst of them. The awful doucheface who is still alive and keeps being awful. They let you know how much they hate X type of person. And they support foundations that make the world a terrible place. This is noted homophobe Orson Scott Card. Is it possible to separate the author completely from their work? Yeah. Will I yell at people if I see them reading his stuff? Nope. Am I happy that I read Ender's Game before knowing about all his doucheface-ness? So happy. Will I be reading any more of his stuff or seeing the Ender's Game movie? Probably not till he's dead. Or if he does a 180. Chuck Wendig puts it much better than I ever could, but look, I don't want to support this guy. I don't want to support him financially so he can (again, in a very long distance sort of way) spend that money I gave him on groups I hate.

Liz Lemon Level:

SO. Why are you joining in this readalong? Other than it's going to be awesome and full of snark and gifs.

*Yeah I have a feeling I'm going to call him this throughout the readalong.
**I've obviously been giving this a lot of thought. And not just because of this readalong but given Franzen recently being in the news for being extra crotchety, it's all working out nicely isn't it?
***I had author examples for each category but this one was a bit tricky. Luckily I found this great list. And by great I mean "DAMMIT DR. SEUSS WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" Hits your right in the childhood. However, before finding this list I did consider Lewis Carol cos I had read about his weird child photography stuff in the Annotated Alice Through The Looking Glass, but I'm trying to think maybe this is a different time and he's not quite as bad as some of the others.