Thursday, February 22, 2007

Are writers good people?

My answer to the title question: some are, some aren't.

Tania Kindersley raised a related question on the Guardian books blog, and came up with a different answer. She suggests that good writing absolves bad behavior:
Everyone is talking about Auden this week; we are reminded of his naughty dash to America at the first hint of war. I forgive him that just for the first verse of Lullaby. I slightly wish that TS Eliot had not skirted the edges of anti-Semitism, had not been unkind to his wife, but he left us Prufrock; the mermaids singing are absolution enough. I even forgive Hemingway the misogynism, because he invented Lady Brett Ashley.
Kindersley's reflections are thoughtful but, I think, wrong-headed. Why can't we give great writers their due as artists and still judge their moral behavior by the same standards to which we are held?

If you are reading this page you probably don't think that great athletes or celebrated actors should get a pass for churlish or illegal behavior; so why should writers?

I also don't think we should judge or dismiss great writing because of its creator's bad behavior.

Writing and living are different realms: judge each by the appropriate standard.

--Marshal Zeringue