Friday, April 5, 2019

Separating the Art from the Artist

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 public lies, would you still read his book?

by Paul D. Marks

Well, the point in this particular instance is moot since I read the book well before the controversy broke. So I can’t say 100% for sure if I would have read it had I known about all of Mallory’s shenanigans. I might still have wanted to read it, though maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to pay for it. Maybe get it from the library or some other source.

Mallory/AJ Finn’s book The Woman in the Window was a huge best seller and is being made into a movie. For those unfamiliar with Dan Mallory’s/Finn’s transgressions here’s just a sampling: He claimed his mother and brother had died, mom of cancer, brother of suicide. Both are alive and well. He claimed he had cancer and surgery for a brain tumor. Apparently he even sent e-mails under his brother’s name with updates on his condition. He claimed to be British and went around speaking in a British accent, using British phrases, like going to the loo. And there’s more.

That said, lots of artists (fine artists, painters, wall painters, wallpaper hangers, musicians, writers, actors, etc.) are schmucks of one kind or another. Wagner was a major anti-Semite, Hitler liked him and his music was played in concentration camps. Picasso is said to have been one nasty s.o.b. Celine was an anti-Semite. And many celebs today are not nice or even decent people, some of which I can attest to personally. I don’t listen to Wagner, unless I’m watching Apocalypse Now, but not because of his views. His music just isn’t my cup of tea, and I do like some classical music and especially baroque. But I still look at Picasso paintings. I still read Celine. – Check out this piece at the New York Times, “He’s a Creep, but Wow, What an Artist!”: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/opinion/artists-assault-fans.html

Generally speaking, I’d say you have to separate the art from the artist, which is easier in some cases than in others. I suppose someone could do something so egregious that I wouldn’t listen to their music, read their books, go to their movies, etc. And I’m not saying there isn’t a little twinge sometimes when I see/hear/read these people and their work. But I think there’s way too much nitpicking people apart these days.

I wouldn’t want someone to not read my books because they don’t like the fact that I like the Beatles as much as I do and that’s about how silly it’s getting. We’ve all said and done things we shouldn’t have, things we regret, but that’s not the whole of our beings. And certainly not our writings, our art.

On a similar note, people are defriending others simply because they disagree with them. Around Christmas time I usually put up a satirical video by the Dropkick Murphys. I think it’s funny. I guess some people don’t because a Facebook friend defriended me for putting up that video. (Judge for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTx-sdR6Yzk ) She was offended by it. She raked me over the coals, both in the comments section and in private e-mails. She was also angry about another video that another friend posted in the comments. I didn’t even post that one and she tore into me for it. I apologized for offending her three times, but I wouldn’t remove the video that I’d put up. I did a piece about this for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which you can find here: https://somethingisgoingtohappen.net/2018/08/01/flame-wars-more-by-paul-d-marks/

None of us – none (not even Mother Teresa, I’m sure) – could stand up to the scrutiny of every minute of our lives. We all have things in our pasts, things that may even have seemed innocent at the time, but in retrospect maybe aren’t. An off-color joke, an unwanted advance, an angry outburst like Liam Neeson admitted to recently (https://www.nme.com/news/film/liam-neeson-removed-from-queens-university-belfast-prospectus-after-controversial-race-comments-2468159 ). Will you avoid his movies, past, present and future, forever? Is he persona non grata now?


I’m not excusing anything anyone’s done, I’m just saying we’ve all done things we regret, but that they aren’t the totality of our being.

I see things that annoy me or bother me or piss me off one way or another all the time, on Facebook, in the media, in real life. About people whose works I like. And mostly I just let it go, as I hope people will let go my transgressions because we are all only human.

Semi-Spoiler Alert re: The Woman in the Window:

And now to bring it full circle, back to Mallory and The Woman in the Window (also the name of a terrific film noir from 1944, which Mallory took his title from, and starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea, and directed by Fritz Lang – check it out). I liked the book okay, but thought the ending was a bit of a letdown.


What about you? How do you react to artists who are less than stellar in their private lives?

~.~.~
And now for the usual BSP:

The Anthonys. Well, from the BSP Department and since Anthony voting is still in progress, I hope you'll consider voting for Broken Windows in the Best Paperback Original Department.



The third story in my Ghosts of Bunker Hill series, Fade Out on Bunker Hill, appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. If you like the movie Sunset Boulevard, I think you'll enjoy this story. In bookstores and on newstands now:



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

18 comments:

GBPool said...

Thought provoking post, Paul. It is getting harder to venture out on the admiration limb because too many people rip off the mask and they are something really tacky underneath. It happens so often now that I prefer to keep my distance. I don't like it, but I hate seeing what's under the mask. I also don't like living like a hermit, but I am tired of being disappointed. But as you said, if the work is good, I can admire it and move on.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree with you, Paul, We all have things in our pasts, but I guess there has to be a line somewhere.

Maggie King said...

Like you, Paul, I read Woman in the Window before the controversy. I liked it (and I’m sure I’ll see the movie). I got the book from the library where I’ll also get the DVD. I agree about the ending and also found Finn way too fond of metaphors/similes and florid language. I like pretty writing as much as the next person, but he went way overboard. Woody Allen came to mind while reading this. I love his movies. And I love Anne Perry’s works, an author with a less than stellar past.

In short, if I like the work, I’ll probably close my eyes to the personal transgressions.

Madeline McEwen said...

The fact is, everyone has secrets or matters they would prefer not to publicize. Maybe we're all one tweet away from disaster.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson and link:-https://www.esquire.com/uk/culture/news/a7933/exclusive-extract-from-jon-ronson-book-so-youve-been-publicly-shamed/
That's a link to an article, not a book link.
I listened to a podcast by Jon Ronson about this=sobering.

Susan C Shea said...

I missed most of the Finn/Mallory mess and haven't read the book. But if you tell me you love Pat Boone's renditions of R&B music, we're through! ;-0

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Gayle. It’s definitely harder these days I think because people are so much more out there and open. And with social media things are forever. Though with some of the people I mention from the past their bad sides were known too. It’s a tough choice. And I like living like a hermit for the most part…

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dieter. I agree that there has to be a line sometimes, I’m just not always sure where it is… So generally speaking I try to separate the art from the artist.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Maggie. I agree with your assessment of Woman in the Window. And I also like Woody Allen, especially his earlier films. I haven’t read Anne Perry, but I am aware of her past. As I say, I try to separate the art from the artist, but it is hard sometimes.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Madeline. And that’s the thing, I think we all have things we’d prefer not to publicize. And thank you for the link – it sounds interesting and I’ll check it out.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Susan. Not really a huge Pat Boone fan, so can we still be friends?

Terry said...

I thought what Catriona had to say on the subject was interesting. She said that she could deal with movies, art, music from "bad actors" but that the reading of a book was intimate and it was harder for her to deal with an ill-intended author. The point about having things in our past is a good one, but there is an over-the-top element to Mallory that I thought was too much. Plus, I was uneasy with the collusion of his publisher, who had to have known whom they were dealing with.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Terry. I also liked what Catriona had to say. But, as I say and which you mention, we all have things in our past. Or things that others might not like, our politics, our way of looking at the world, etc. And I think it’s too easy these days to count people out just because we don’t agree with their point of views or a silly video like that Dropkick Murphys one. I hadn’t thought about the collusion of the publisher. That’s a really good point. I guess they saw dollar signs and that was more important than anything else.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Paul,

I didn't know anything about the author. I did pick up the book from the library. I thought the language a bit too flowery for a mystery thriller and too dragged out. I thought the pace was too slow. There were twists and turns in the plot, some of which I figured out and wasn't surprised by. No, I wouldn't bother seeing the movie version of this one.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline. I liked the book itself okay and, of course, didn't know the controversy when I'd read it, so don't know if/how that would have affected my view.

sugarfiend said...

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Paul. You're right about drawing a line. But there are many titles on my TBR list so...after reading the New Yorker article about Mallory, I'm not going to read his novel. He sounds despicable, and it would be difficult not to let that color my view of the book. I'm also annoyed by how he seemed to get a pass by so many in the publishing field, a woman would never have been promoted with that kind of track record.

Vinnie Hansen said...

This question always interests me. I still enjoy the Thriller album, for example. On the other hand, I wouldn't want the group I belong to to perform a Michael Jackson song. I found James Frey's A Million Little Pieces gripping when I read it, but after the controversy about the book, I felt angry. Defrauded. I quit liking it in retrospect, if there is such a thing. I certainly would never recommend it. I'd still watch a Woody Allen movie in a heartbeat even though his personal life creeps me out. It's a strange, tricky business. The way I feel about an artist colors my response, but not enough to clobber that gut reaction of, "Damn, that's good."

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you for your comment Sugarfiend. Since you haven’t already read the book you can make an informed decision about whether or not to do it. As I mentioned in the piece, I’d already read it when the controversy about him broke, but if it had happened beforehand it might have affected my decision as to whether or not to read it. I do try to separate the art from the artist, but it’s not always easy and sometimes not even possible.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Vinnie. I think we’re pretty much on the same page. I also try to separate the art from the artist, though it’s not always easy and I’m not always successful at it. As for A Million Little Pieces, that was just pure fraud. He claimed the book and story it told was fact when it wasn’t. So I can understand your feeling totally deceived. Not that I want to be defending Mallory, but his book was fiction so on that level it is a little different. But neither he nor Frey are people I’d want to have a beer with.