Thursday, April 4, 2019

Can We Ever Forgive Them?

"Regarding AJ Finn (Dan Mallory) and his blatant lies, how important is an author’s personal ethics in your regard for his or her work? Knowing about Mallory’s lies, would you still read his book?"

By Catriona

Short answer: I had AJ Finn's novel on my TBR file when the story broke. It's in the SPCA thrift store now, unread.

Longer answer: I had no problem going to see Can You Ever Forgive Me? and then buying the book, knowing that Lee Israel's heir(s), whoever they are, will be benefitting from her crimes. I would have bought the book when she was alive too. And yet Dan Mallory's actions turned me off completely.

Maybe it's because Lee Israel was somewhat hapless, beset by multiple misfortunes and that her crime grew out of the desperation of a writer in a cold hard world (i.e. publishing). Mallory on the other hand seemed to be slick, smarmy and not so much desperate as entitled and unwilling to put in the grunt work to get where he wanted to be.

I do often have trouble reading novels by people if I know they're horrible. Racists, misogynists, homophobes and all the rest might be able to turn a pretty phrase or pace a pretty plot but there's something so intimate about reading a novel: I don't want to give a known douchenozzle that much access to my attention, frankly. I don't want them in my head, inviting me to enter their worlds. I don't want a piece of their mind

Maybe that's why painters and sculptors, actors, even musicians, don't trouble me as much as fiction writers. I mean, don't get me wrong: I've never seen a Woody Allen film since he married his son's sister (Who does that?) but the douchery's got to get somewhere up there for me to turn off the radio or walk away from a piece of art hanging in a gallery. Michael Jackson? Paul Gauguin? Wagner? As they recede into the past, I feel less squeamish about them.

Philip Larkin? I still love his poetry, but I'm glad I never met him. Contrast the two living authors whose books I bought at the Edinburgh Book Festival, all set to get them signed after the interview. I sat and listened to an hour of lazy, drawling, self-regarding, too-cool-for-school, boorish inanity then, instead of joining the signing queue, I went back to the book shop and swapped their novels for the new Margaret Atwood. I didn't have to tell the young woman behind the counter why. She knew. I think she'd met them.

In conclusion, I dunno. But here's a whole Lefty banquet table of people wearing Jimmy wigs.


Paul D. Marks said...

Sometimes it's hard to separate the art from the artist. I try to do that and mostly succeed. But every once in a while it's just too hard to do that. Love the pic at the end, by the way. That definitely lightened things up :-) .

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Catriona, and congratulations on the Lefty.

ktford said...

Very well said..

Terry said...

I was trying to figure out why it didn't matter as much to me that a visual artist might be off-putting, and you nailed talking about the intimacy of reading a book.

Finta said...

I read AJ Finn/Dan Mallory last year and quite liked the book. But that was before. I won’t read him again

As for those whose those whose moral compass is broken, I won’t read their books nor contribute to their livelihood in any way. Unless they are long dead and classics. I certainly couldn’t deal with Dorothy Sayer’s politics now. Or Agatha Christie’s for that matter. And don’t even start me on Wagner, although I spent five hour at Die Walkure on Saturday. Going forward, however, I won’t be in the same room with fascist pigs, NRA proponents or Republicans of any ilk.

So yes, the personal ethics of the writer matter to me, as far as I can know them.

Ann Mason aka Finta.

quoi said...

Loved this... especially the notion that fiction is different from other arts – more invasive – because of the way you have to allow the fiction writer to enter your thoughts and your memory. Delighted to acquire the new word "douchenozzle" too. Sorry I missed the Jimmie hat banquet, but congrats on your award and it was a pleasure to be at the Scot and Soda book launch -- and having breakfast the next day.

JD Allen said...

I agree with AJ Flynn and Woody Allen. Nope. I had tolerated the Michael Jackson music for years until the recent documentary and now the sound of his voice causes the creep meter to jump too high to tolerate. I change it and feel a bit sleazy for supporting it as long as I had. Cindy Lauper once said: Don't meet your heroes, they will almost always disappoint you." I'm glad I've found that untrue for nearly all the authors I have met.

Susan C Shea said...

Agree about Woody Allen except I do love "Midnight in Paris" and have seen it twice. The cast is terrific and, well, it's Paris. We talk about this business of separating the art from the artist and I think time blurs hard lines. I think Picasso's behavior toward the women who loved and served him was atrocious, but refuse to look at his art? Ditto Wagner's music. The closer the sleaze is to our professional world, the less likely I will tolerate it, though.

LPete said...

Finn/Mallory is seriously unhinged if the New Yorker story ( is remotely true. He appears to be the kind of character I run from in my own life. At the risk of sounding like an "I-told-you-so," I honestly thought that The Woman in the Window was a run of the mill book. I buy 10 - 12 mysteries/thrillers each month, but I guarantee that I will never buy another Finn/Mallory book.

Keenan Powell said...

I want read Mallory/Finn. I haven't seen a Woody Allen film since before he married the son's sister. I don't watch Clint Eastwood anymore. My life is rich regardless.