Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Recommendations, discussions, and odes to your favorites

Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 09 Dec 2010, 17:43

Before I get to the meat of my question to everyone, I just want to put out a flat disclaimer that this is not meant to be an author bashing thread so please refrain from using author names or book titles unless the event in question was part of public discourse in the news.

My question to you is, can the author's behavior or the actions they take change the way you see their books? More specifically, will an event (like on twitter, facebook, or in the media) alter your interest in reading their books?

See, I'm having a serious moral dilemma and some internal conflict. A couple of weeks ago the blogosphere was all atwitter about the James Frey/Full Fathom Five book factory and questionable predatory tactics the author was using to ensnare and screw young hopeful writers. If you haven't heard about this, you can read the article that came out in New York magazine here: http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/69474/ and an awesome set of follow up posts by author John Scalzi here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/?s=james+frey but in a very brief nutshell, Frey was recruiting writers from MFA programs to come write for him. The student would write him a book and be paid $250 up front and promised 40% of future earnings. Regardless of the fact $250 is a paltry sum for a full novel, it was the contract everyone had problems with. First of all, the students could not take credit for having written the book. Ever. They would not own the rights to the book and it could be altered and published under anyone's name Frey chose. The promised 40% was for an undisclosed amount of money after undisclosed expenses were taken out and the contract specifically stated there would be no audits allowed of the finances of the the book's earnings. There would be no negotiation. (Here is the contract if you're interested http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/11/read_the_brutal_contract_from.html)

And this isn't even about how I feel about THAT whole thing (which I could write scores about.) My problem stems from a recently released YA book called "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore. It is a book published by Full Fathom Five in a collaboration between Frey and a writer named Jobie Hughes. Apparently after things became messy between the two writers and due to the severe control the contract had on him, Hughes walked away from Full Fathom Five and will not be writing any more of the books in the series. There is also a movie coming out and the movie looks phenomenal. And so does the book. In fact, the book is in my office right now, sitting on my book shelf, staring at me with its bright orange and red cover and I really, really want to read it. Also, the thought of reading it or seeing the movie makes me feel kind of sick about supporting this whole enterprise and not being able to really support the author, Jobie Hughes.

I can't seem to figure out what I should do. I bought the book before I knew any of this and now that I know I can't seem to bring myself to divorce the book from its slimy background.

So what would you do? What should I do? How have you handled experiences like this? What do you think?

I am torn. What do I do?
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby lyndoncr » 09 Dec 2010, 18:35

I haven't had this problem myself. Thank you though for posting about this particular case, there's no way in hell I'll be supporting the book or its film now (despite my love for Timothy Olyphant). So I guess that answers the question doesn't it? heh.

On the other side, knowing that an author is a generally great person helps me love their books all the more. Neil Gaiman's presence online and JK Rowling's speeches and contributions for example.
User avatar
lyndoncr
 
Posts: 19
Joined: 04 Dec 2010, 22:18
Location: Australia

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 09 Dec 2010, 18:38

lyndoncr wrote:I haven't had this problem myself. Thank you though for posting about this particular case, there's no way in hell I'll be supporting the book or its film now (despite my love for Timothy Olyphant). So I guess that answers the question doesn't it? heh.

On the other side, knowing that an author is a generally great person helps me love their books all the more. Neil Gaiman's presence online and JK Rowling's speeches and contributions for example.


I will agree totally with your last statement!! I really enjoyed reading the book Paranormalcy, but it was somehow so much better knowing how awesome and sweet Kiersten White is.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Watcher55 » 09 Dec 2010, 18:44

WOW! I read the article and I'll read the other two pages, but I have to say this - This guy is a pimp. Let's put the dubious financial language aside. What he's basically doing is divorcing the art from the artist and putting it on the auction block while the stabled writer has two choices, get back to work or you're out on the street. "I own you. I picked you up and I can put you down and if that happens I keep what's yours."

I don't know how good the book is or if, in and of itself, it has any redeeming qualities. It may be a work of genius, but at this point I don't think I could read it. I'm not even sure what to make of the author or the other writers in Frey's stable (you know the names for people who work for pimps). He may be this gullible guy who reached for the first shiny future someone painted for him. If there came a time that I would read it, it would be in some hopeful future where Hughes has cultivated his own dignity.
User avatar
Watcher55
 
Posts: 741
Joined: 27 Nov 2010, 06:25
Location: Plantser-ville

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby steve » 09 Dec 2010, 18:45

Books are books, authors are people.

Since you don't know the truth of the Frey episode, and you never will no matter how many articles are written, read the book and judge it on its merits.

A library of books by scrupulous writers would be small and insignificant.
Last edited by steve on 09 Dec 2010, 19:44, edited 1 time in total.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.
User avatar
steve
 
Posts: 204
Joined: 25 Jun 2010, 21:09
Location: Web City

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 09 Dec 2010, 19:12

steve wrote:Books are books, authors are people.

Since you don't know the truth of the Frey episode, and you never will no many how many articles are written, read the book and judge it on its merits.

A library of books by scrupulous writers would be small and insignificant.


This is true, we won't really know everything about what happened, and that in itself is a different issue. I didn't want to specifically attack the Frey issue here, it's just the background of what is going on. But it isn't the first time we've seen authors coming out with statements bashing their fans, or supporting controversial issues, or bashing other authors on twitter or whatever, and I wonder if these little public, unflattering moments change how readers perceive the books. Not just the Frey issue, but any event.

I'm starting to think my time spent getting to know authors, following their blogs and other social networking sites has made it impossible for me to separate the author from the book. And I'm not sure how I feel about this.

The thing that I'm most bothered about rests on the situation of this particular book. While this book might be awesome, the rest of the series will be written by at least one other person, maybe many writers, in this weird book factory situation that I'm not sure I want to support. It might be a naive thing to worry about, but I don't like the implications of divorcing the author from the book - as in - it doesn't matter who writes it. There is something about a book written in this manner that makes it feel sterile and devoid of the art behind it. I don't know how to reconcile that.

See, it is complicated for me. I am happy to have all of your comments and perspectives.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Margo » 09 Dec 2010, 19:41

I know just how you feel, Sommer. This is an odd situation. I am very wary of Frey, especially after he supposedly sold these MFA students on writing for him with the enticement that his connections would help them get their own writing published, too, and that has not been the case. Also, I find something really unsettling about the cultivated bad boy image, built not on Wilde-like commentary on society but on an apparent glorification of having no moral compass whatsoever. What is the Good? Money and infamy are the Good.

Anyway, the book is already in your possession, right? So the sale has already been made. Frey will gain no additional revenue just from the act of you reading it. If you like it, you can make a future effort to support Hughes rather than Frey.

And to answer the general question, yes, an author's behavior can change how I feel about their writing. It can interfere with my enjoyment level. That's not an easy thing to do because I'm a little left-of-center in what I find offensive. In one case, I stopped reading the author, and I know I'm not the only person to have made that decision. In the other case, I have to keep reading the author, because some of his work is related to my profession. He also writes fiction, which I choose not to read until he gets treatment for APD. And the 'A' doesn't stand for antisocial.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/
Margo
 
Posts: 1712
Joined: 05 Apr 2010, 08:21

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby J. T. SHEA » 10 Dec 2010, 13:37

Read and enjoy, Sommer! If it is good, it would not be the first time a fraught and compromised collaboration produced something good. Gilbert and Sullivan hated each other's guts and only collaborated through intermediaries. Walter P. Chrysler and architect William Van Alen sued each other after completing the Chrysler Building, but who cares now?

Buying the book may indeed be viewed as supporting/encouraging Frey's shady enterprise, but you've already paid for it, as Margo pointed out, and it won't do Jobie Hughes any harm. Indeed, with all due respect to Mr. Hughes, Frey didn't kidnap or coerce him into the deal.

Meanwhile, I think that pen-name 'Pittacus Lore' should be changed to 'Pittance Lore'.
User avatar
J. T. SHEA
 
Posts: 449
Joined: 20 May 2010, 10:55

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby zen » 11 Dec 2010, 02:33

Sommer, I'm glad you brought up this question. It was bad enough what this man did the first time around - "Little" in the title of his book some say is an inside joke referring to a writer who really did live the wild life and who some say Frey 'borrowed' from -- but this really puts him in a whole new category. So happy he is decorating his home with expensive art while the MFA students write their hearts out on his promises.

No, I would not read the book. I would return it. Send a quiet message. I personally will not pay a cent to this man. If you're dying to read it, why not get it from the library?
zen
 
Posts: 11
Joined: 07 Dec 2009, 15:16

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Holly » 11 Dec 2010, 07:04

Good post, Sommer.

If something really, really bothers you, then you should take a stand.

I love omelettes, but I gave up eating eggs -- unless I know they come from a local farm where tha animals are not mistreated. After I read some horrendous things about the egg industry -- hens kept in cages all the time, never allowed to walk, baby roosters thrown into a grinding machine -- I had to stop eating eggs and products made with eggs. I have a brain and a conscience. Mistreatment and lying are wrong whether we're talking about eggs or writers.
User avatar
Holly
 
Posts: 500
Joined: 21 Dec 2009, 19:42
Location: Gettysburg, PA

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Bryan Russell/Ink » 11 Dec 2010, 18:49

I'm with Margo. If you've already bought it, might as well read it. If you like it, you can look out for future books by Jobie Hughes and support him. And you can refrain from supporting anything by Frey if his actions bother you. Avoiding reading the book now only bothers you. It has no effect on Jobie or James. So I'd say read - I'm guessing Jobie would be happy, at least, that someone is enjoying his book... and that he might be winning a future fan/supporter.

Ink
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com
User avatar
Bryan Russell/Ink
Moderator
 
Posts: 430
Joined: 20 Dec 2009, 20:44

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Guardian » 11 Dec 2010, 19:41

This Fiction Factory was already discussed here on the forum a month ago...

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2823

As I see my prediction came true. That's unfortunate, but it's not surprising at all.

But to answer your question; personally I would try to separate the book from the author, even if it would be really hard to me. Personally I would read it, then, I would truly meditate to buy the next book from him, regardless the first one was a really good one. In this case, I would support Jobie and I would put Frey to my personal blacklist (Well, actually he is already there since that Fiction Factory article.). So read the present novel for Jobie, enjoy it... and if you see another Fiction Factory novel from Frey, avoid it as far as you can. At least your conscious will be clear.

My question to you is, can the author's behavior or the actions they take change the way you see their books? More specifically, will an event (like on twitter, facebook, or in the media) alter your interest in reading their books?

Yes. Actually I used to avoid hyped novels. I don't know why. And writers shouldn't act like celebrities. So, yes, their actions count something (Not in every cases, but in some cases.). I also like friendly authors, whose are a bit different then the ordinary people. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites in this matter. I also like silent writers that about you know almost nothing (Iain M. Banks or Harry Harrison).
Guardian
 
Posts: 563
Joined: 29 Sep 2010, 13:36
Location: Somewhere between two realms

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 14 Dec 2010, 22:33

I really appreciate all of your comments. I still haven't decided what I'm going to do. I know I already own the book, but I own lots of books by authors I love and admire. I'm not sure I can really get into the story knowing how I feel about the situation, but we'll see. I might break down. I'm going to let the issue marinate for a while and see how I feel later.

I thought it was interesting though that one of my favorite book bloggers, Steph Su Reads, just posted about this very topic this week. Not specifically the I Am Number Four deal, but how an author behaves online influences her ability to read and appreciate their work. It deals exactly with the heart of my troubles.

http://stephsureads.blogspot.com/2010/12/discussion-professionalism-presence-and.html
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.
Sommer Leigh
Moderator
 
Posts: 1624
Joined: 02 Apr 2010, 20:07
Location: Omaha, NE

Re: Can you enjoy the book even when you can't stand the author?

Postby rosepetal720 » 11 Apr 2011, 08:37

If you can't enjoy it, for heaven's sake, don't read it. There are so many millions of wonderful books out there; why spend your time sifting through something you're not enjoying?

As for whether or not you should enjoy it... that's another question. I also have a hard time seperating the author from the book, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. However, I did have a bad experience with an author once (she literally chewed me out at her reading, I just barely wrote about this on my blog). Even though I was humiliated, I read her book and was glad I did because it was fantastic.

I'm big on supporting authors I like. Example, if I meet an author and have a good experience, I buy her book instead of getting it at the library. If we're willing to support authors we like, we should be just as willing to not support authors we don't like. I will not support Frey.
Author of Sacred Fire, a historical fiction of the Vestal Virgins of Rome.
http://teralynpilgrim.blogspot.com/
rosepetal720
 
Posts: 39
Joined: 12 Jan 2011, 10:28


Return to All Things Books

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron